Inhabitable | Invasion Survivor Book Two | Chapter Five
Paige needed to let Willow, Peter, and AJ know they were on their way back. She texted Willow and hoped it would work.
<<I managed to get mom. Getting what we’ll need before returning to FH.>>
Paige clicked send and prayed the phone grid still worked. She hadn’t checked her phone for a while, so she didn’t have the faintest idea. She sighed in relief when it went through. She became even more excited when got a nearly instant reply.
<<Thank God. We’re waiting for you. Plz, be careful. Stay safe.>>
Paige sent a kiss emoji back.
Sitting around and doing nothing made her think too much about the situation they were in and the difficulties they’d have to overcome to survive. She wanted something to do to occupy herself and her mind.
She stood up, passed her mother—who looked lost inside her own world—and went to Dave. “How much longer?”
“Not long,” he replied, shrugging.
Paige was relieved. She continued to stand next to him, looking through the windshield. “It’s too quiet,” she murmured, mostly to herself.
This particular stretch of road had some abandoned cars with a few dead bodies inside or sprawled on the pavement. But that had become the new normal a while back. Paige didn’t even register those things anymore, none of them did.
“Tell me you didn’t just say that?” Dave accused.
“What?” Paige asked.
“You totally jinxed us,” he replied, shaking his head.
“You don’t actually believe in those kinds of things, do you?” Paige asked, intrigued.
He shrugged. “After the day we had, I believe in plenty of things.” There was a lot of truth in his words.
There was a pause as Paige leaned forward and searched the landscape. ‘‘What the hell?’’
She pointed to the side of the road. “I think I just saw something over there.”
“I told you. You totally jinxed us.” Despite his words, his tone was light and almost playful.
“Oh, don’t overreact over nothing,” Paige replied in the same manner.
She continued to scout the area, and sure enough, there was a man in a hospital gown, running as if something big and scary was chasing him. He was completely covered in blood.
“There, I told you I saw something,” Paige exclaimed triumphantly.
“Nice threads,” Dave said, stealing a few glances at the sprinter.
“You think he’s from the institution?” Paige wondered.
He shook his head. “I don’t know, but if so, his mileage is impressive.”
That wasn’t exactly what she had in mind while looking at the man, but she stayed quiet. She worried he might be infected or suicidal. He could attack them either way. He couldn’t win against a minibus, but it still made her wary.
“Holy shit!” Dave yelled as he hit the brakes, making the bus jerk in protest.
“What is it?” Angela demanded, coming to the front of the bus.
“I’m not sure, but does that look like a roadblock to you?” Dave answered, nodding forward.
The three of them leaned over at the same time, trying to figure out what was happening and if it might detour them. As Paige inspected the area, it looked like the military had closed the road.
“Those are military vehicles,” her mother stated.
“What are we going to do?” Paige asked.
Dave shook his head before turning to look at the women next to him. “Continue?” There was serious doubt in his voice. “We’re not infected. They would have to let us pass, right?”
“We can’t be sure of what they would or wouldn’t do,” Paige replied flatly.
As they debated the right course of action, the sprinter almost reached the roadblock himself.
The trio inside the bus watched as the soldiers spotted the man in a hospital gown. He’d paused as if some unknown force stopped him, jerked a couple of times, then dropped dead.
They killed him, Paige realized with dread.
“I think that settles that,” Angela said in a pragmatic way before returning to her seat.
“So, we try to go around?” Dave asked. “I think I saw a dirt road a few miles back.”
“Yeah, why don’t we do that?” Paige agreed eagerly, more than ready to get the hell out of there. These people were obviously trigger happy. She couldn’t blame them, but she didn’t want to end up dead over a misunderstanding.
Nodding, Dave started the minibus again and made a sharp U-turn. After a few miles in the tense silence, they located the side road Dave had seen earlier. He turned onto the narrow road, and it took them to the industrial part of the city. There were signs of destruction everywhere. A few dead bodies were strewn about here and there, but otherwise, the streets looked desolate. More importantly, they felt desolate. It was creepy. Paige had hoped that meant everyone that worked there had managed to evacuate on time.
“Are you sure about going this way?” Paige asked after a while. Dave was forced to make turn after turn, and she felt like they were driving in circles.
Or inside a very elaborate maze.
“Pretty sure,” Dave replied, but that didn’t make her feel any better.
She just hoped they wouldn’t encounter any problems in the city. In New York City, they’d witnessed people robbing, killing others on sight, and they’d even tried to do the same to Dave and Paige a while back. If they ran into a situation like that, they were screwed. There was little hope that another plane would crash again and cause a distraction like it had on the Brooklyn bridge.
“We’re here,” Dave announced cheerfully as he turned into a huge parking lot. “Told you I know a place.” He sounded smug, but Paige felt like he was entitled to.
“You’re the best,” she complimented, and he grinned in return.
Dave drove them in front of a hypermarket, and she grinned, feeling like jumping up and down like a little kid when she saw a McDonald’s next to it.
For a second, she forgot about the zombie infestation and the alien invasion. Seeing those golden arches cheered her up immensely. Theirs was the only vehicle on the parking lot, but by now, Paige knew better than to assume that meant the place was deserted.
“Stay alert. Grab only what you really need and come right back here,” her mother ordered, and Dave and Paige agreed.
Paige decided to take her backpack and sword, which made Dave scowl at her.
“What?” she asked.
“Nothing. I just hate being weaponless,” he said flatly.
Paige could barely stop herself from laughing because his expression was beyond comical. She looked around, thinking on the spot. “Maybe this car has some kind of a toolkit?”
“Good thinking,” Dave replied and started snooping around.
With a bit of luck, Dave quickly found what he was looking for.
“Ta-da,” he joked, presenting Paige with his new best friend—a tire iron.
“Great,” Paige said. “Let’s go.”
They exited slowly, watching the place closely from all angles, listening to any sounds that might alert them to danger.
There was no one.
Once they started to near the entrance, Paige made them stop. “Should we go to the front instead of trying the back?”
“Don’t complicate things, Paige,” Angela replied. “The same danger will greet us inside, regardless of our point of entrance.”
That’s the spirit, Paige thought.
There was a distinct scraping sound, and it became louder with each passing second. From a far corner, a man dragging a cart with all kinds of rubbish in it appeared, a large mixed breed dog by his side. The man paused when he spotted their little group.
“Let’s just go,” Dave said under his breath, and Paige nodded in agreement.
“Don’t go in there,” the man warned. “The demons are everywhere.”
Any other day, Paige would brush him off, but today, the man spoke the truth. Demons, humans infected by an alien virus—it was all the same.
But still, they couldn’t listen to him, or they’d face the same problem everywhere they went.
“Come on. We can’t stay here,” Paige urged as her mother looked at the man with an amused expression on her face.
As they slowly walked through the debris inside, Paige noticed the automatic sliding door was broken, the glass completely shattered. She cringed every time the broken glass crunched underneath her shoes.
So much for getting in and out without anyone noticing, Paige thought.
The light inside flickered ever-so-slightly, but didn’t go out. As she looked around, Paige was pleasantly surprised at the state of the store. She expected it to be in a terrible state with products everywhere or possibly half empty, since the looters made themselves busy throughout the day.
She saw dried blood, and without even thinking about it, they went a different way.
“Should we fan out?” Dave asked, looking around.
Paige immediately understood why he’d ask. The place looked too empty, as if someone was waiting in an ambush.
“I think it’s better if we stick together,” Paige replied.
“So where to first?” Dave asked.
‘‘Food,” Angela said. “Then clothes and everything else you might need.”
Dave and Paige nodded in agreement. The trio slightly changed course to get to the right area of the store. Naturally, the food section suffered the most damage. Whole sections of the isles were missing, and bags with spilled food littered the floor.
As they continued, they found a crouching man next to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios, or what was left of them. He was staring at a single piece like it was the most precious thing in the world.
“Stage one,” Dave observed.
“Yeah,” Paige said with a sigh.
“Let’s try not to spook him,” Dave added, and Paige simply nodded.
Angela squeaked suddenly. Paige prepared for the worst, holding her sword high, but it was actually a happy sound that was followed by a happy dance.
She was holding a bag in her hands. “Raisins,” she announced with a smile, “are what humanity made right.”
Shaking her head slightly, Paige proceeded to bypass the infected man with care. She didn’t want to kill anyone unless she absolutely had to.
Despite warning them earlier, her mother wandered off, stuffing her bathrobe pockets with bags of raisins while muttering something completely unintelligible.
“Over here.” Dave gestured to a hidden treasure of food.
Paige refocused on the real task at hand, knowing her mother could take care of herself.
“Nice,” Paige said with a smile.
She began to stuff food inside her backpack. She figured she should take anything that would last a longer. A lot of cans and instant meals found their way inside her bag. She paused when she noticed Dave hadn’t moved beside her.
“I don’t have a backpack,” he complained as if he’d just realized that bit of information. His pockets were already full with trinkets he’d picked up along the way.
“Do you want us to find you one?” Paige offered, feeling bad that she hadn’t realized that sooner.
Dave nodded and gave a small smile. While they moved toward what was marked as the camping section, they chatted a bit.
“What would you like to pack besides the obvious?” Dave asked.
“I don’t know, movies maybe,” she blurted out. That was probably the thing she would miss most from Earth. That and McDonald’s.
Dave looked at her with what appeared to be confusion.
“How about you?” Paige asked in return, curious to hear what he had to say.
“I would kill for some music,” he said with a groan. It seemed as though living without music pained him, and she couldn’t blame him.
“Don’t you have it on your phone?” Paige asked.
“I don’t have the faintest idea where my phone is.” Dave’s expression fell. She understood that sentiment perfectly. She would probably lose her mind if she lost her phone. Her entire life was on it.
“How about we get you an iPod?” Paige offered to cheer him up.
He chuckled in return. “I’m glad you’re starting to see the benefits of taking what you want,” he teased. “But an iPod? Do they still make those?”
“Of course,” she replied instantly.
“Yeah, but it’s not like I have time to get on a computer, get a Wi-Fi signal, and download everything I want.”
“Point taken,” Paige said with a laugh.
“Ok, so, how about we—” Paige didn’t get the opportunity to finish that sentence because two infected people came out of nowhere and attacked them.
Paige engaged a slightly overweight, middle-aged man, and Dave tried to not get bitten by a soccer mom.
“Why does this keep happening to me?” he complained as he swung at the woman with his latest weapon of choice, a tire iron.
“Seedling! You’re mine!” The man charged, trying to grab hold of Paige.
“Stop whining,” Paige grunted out to Dave, not taking her eyes from her opponent. “We all have problems.’’
She slashed with her sword across the man’s abdomen. It was a clean, deep cut. The man let loose a high-pitched scream as his arms fumbled to prevent his guts from spilling out on the floor. Even though Paige felt like her eardrums would bleed any second, she attacked him again. This time, she pierced him through the shoulder, and the sharp blade went right through.
She groaned to herself when she saw that the damage didn’t slow him down. In fact, he just looked annoyed.
Since Paige stood to close to him, the man smacked her across the face with enough force to knock her down on her ass. Luckily, her grip on the blade remained firm, and she pulled it out of his arm. Blood gushed from the wound, but he kept coming.
What is wrong with this guy? Paige wondered as she began to panic.
She tried to get up but instead slipped on all the blood. He reached out and grabbed her by the foot.
“Mine, Seedling,” he said with a bloody grin.
He dragged her between the isles. Paige positioned herself the best she could while being pulled by the foot. She gripped her sword in both hands and slashed at the hand holding her.
She suspected that the blow had cut deep into his muscles because he released her immediately. She wasted no time moving away from him as far and as fast as possible.
She had just enough time to notice that Dave was nowhere to be found before the very persistent man came at her again. He growled like an animal, and Paige jumped up back, deciding she was done playing around with this dog.
When he came within distance, she slashed across his neck and then made another cut across his thigh. She cut deep, making sure she hit both his carotid and femoral arteries. She watched as he stumbled around, trying to make a grab at her with his one good hand before falling down and bleeding to death.
Already forgetting about him, Paige turned and ran to look for Dave.
“Dave?” she called out in a loud whisper. She didn’t want every infected person in the store to know her whereabouts and silently prayed they hadn’t heard the struggle. She was certain there were more of them.
As she rounded the corner to another aisle, she found him. He stood over the body of the soccer mom, taking deep breaths after defeating her. He’d bludgeoned her to death, not that Paige cared. Paige was happy he’d survived, no matter how he’d done it.
“Why do they all want to bite me?” Dave asked despite the shortage of breath.
Paige smiled and noticed she felt fine. She hadn’t even broken a sweat, which she thought was strange.
“Why do they keep calling me Seedling?” Paige countered.
Actually, Paige now knew why. It was because they wanted to take her to the mothership. She was Earth’s chance of survival. But even though she knew that, she felt it was unnecessary to bother Dave with the details at that moment.
“We all have our crosses to bear,” Paige added.
Dave straightened, chuckling, which had been Paige’s intention.
“Shall we?” she asked.
He nodded, approaching her. “We shall.”
“Now, where was I,” Paige said, pretending to think, “right before we were so rudely interrupted?”
“You were about to ask me something,” Dave countered.
“Yes, maybe we can get you a new phone?”
“Lead the way,” Dave replied, bowing in front of her and making her laugh.
They cautiously continued to shop, doing their best to avoid the others in the building.
They soon found Dave a hiker’s backpack. It was big and even had a place for a sleeping bag, which they found next. Afterward, they returned to the food section and began filling the bag with everything they could grab.
To Paige’s chagrin, the staring man was long gone, and that could only mean one thing—he’d advanced to stage two. Knowing that, she and Dave raised their senses even more.
“I think I need another outfit,” Paige mused out loud while looking at her dirty, bloody, and ripped pair of jeans. The rest of her wasn’t any better. “And for Willow as well.”
“Good thinking. I’ll get some stuff for Peter,” Dave replied.
“Do you want a real weapon?” Paige asked as they walked toward the women’s clothing section.
She didn’t have a clue if this place sold anything like that, but it was worth a try.
Dave shook his head. “This kind of grew on me,’’ he replied as he waved the tire iron.
They chose all black outfits for Paige and Willow before moving on to the men’s section so Dave could do the same. They both decided on the monochrome look because the blood stains weren’t so noticeable against it.
Once that was settled, Paige started looking about. “I wonder where my mom is.”
“I’m right here, Paige,” a voice said behind them, startling her.
“You’re here,” Paige said, obviously relieved.
“And so are you. We have to get going. I need to see that my baby is safe.”
“But first, Mrs. Moon, we need to grab a birthday Mc D’s. Let’s go, then.” Dave grinned.
“How do you know it’s my birthday?” Paige quizzed.
“I heard your mom wish you happy birthday on the minibus.”
Paige smiled that Dave had the idea to go to Mc D’s for her birthday. She used to go there for her birthdays as a kid. This may be the last time she would get to eat there, so she planned to eat like a pig!
“I can down a milkshake without getting brain freeze!” Paige proudly announced.
“No way! I can’t wait to see that!” Dave grinned.
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