Inhabitable | Invasion Survivor Book Two | Chapter Four
Dave was frantic. He had an infected woman riding him hard, and not in a good way. While trying to save Paige from being crushed to death by a mountain of a man, Dave had found himself being attacked. The woman had jumped on him like a spider monkey.
No… More like a monster from hell.
“This is so not fun for me!” he yelled.
Her legs were wrapped around him, her thighs crushing him while her nails dug deeply into his flesh. There was only so much he could do to stop her from biting him. Running around in a zigzag pattern allowed him to perfectly blend in with the rest of the crowd, but it wasn’t confusing her as much as he’d hoped. The more he tried, the more fatigued he became.
“Let go of me, woman!” He tried to punch her, but she dug herself in deeper.
In a flash of inspiration, he ran toward a massive tree with low branches. Dave hoped she would be too busy trying to infect him to actually notice the change of scenery.
He put every ounce of energy he had left into running faster, heading directly for the tree. He hated running, but this would have to work. It was his last chance. He didn’t think he could fight her off otherwise.
As his speed increased, the woman became more determined, which kept her focused on him just as he’d hoped. Just as he met the lowest branch, he ducked down and…
The impact hit her in the face and knocked her right off his back. It felt as though she might have ripped a chunk of flesh from his back with her long nails, but Dave didn’t care. It was his sacrifice to the gods for getting him out of that situation, and he didn’t waste it. He ran like hell to get away.
As he ran from the stunned-but-not-dead infected woman, a loud bang caught his attention. What the hell is that?
Dave quickly made his way to the institution. The closer he got, the better he could hear muffled chanting. He cursed because he didn’t have any type of weapon on him.
So typical. Way to go, Dave, he chastised.
He checked some of the rooms as he followed the source of the noise, looking for something he could use to defend himself. Every corner he turned offered him nothing. Everything was either built for safety or bolted to the ground, walls, etc.
While he found it disheartening, he continued on his journey. As he reached the top of the stairs, he could see people marching. They stopped chanting Seedling, and the sudden silence was even creepier than the previous background noise.
Suddenly, there was an ear-shattering noise, a scream so high pitched it could summon all the dogs in the tri-state area. That scream was quickly followed by footsteps, and Dave started running toward it, only to bump into Paige.
“Paige,” he managed to choke out as he quickly checked Paige and her mother over to ensure they were ok.
“You are going the wrong way!” Paige interrupted as she shouted at him.
Without questioning her, Dave changed direction and ran with Paige. His muscles were fatigued, and he knew they were going to ache terribly from all that running—if he survived that long.
“There’s an infected mob behind us. They’re trying to snatch me and do God knows what to me,” Paige said in one breath. Dave couldn’t help but turn his head to look.
Sure enough, all those people he saw upstairs were now right on their tails.
“The Seedling rubbish again?” Dave asked, even though he already knew the answer.
“Yup,” Paige replied, not breaking her steady rhythm.
Dave groaned. They really needed to figure this thing out because it was starting to get terrifying.
“Did we get everything we needed?” Dave wondered out loud. There was no way he was returning to this madhouse.
“Oh, yes. We have everything,” Angela replied with a smile.
“Great, now let’s get out of this place,” he announced.
They had already overstayed their welcome as far as he was concerned, and there was no need to push their luck if there was no good reason for it.
* * *
The whole gang ran straight to the minibus. Paige was impressed her mother had that much stamina, but Dave didn’t look too good. He was worn out from his earlier fight. It seemed to Paige that her mother had continued working out during her stay in the institution. Then again, she always believed they were under attack so staying prepared would have been crucial to her.
Once they reached the minibus, Dave wasted no time taking his place in the driver’s seat and started the engine. The others scrambled to take a seat, and they were off. After being on the road for a few miles, their hearts began to calm, and they caught their breath as they relaxed. Now that the world was safe again—for the time being—Paige moved to sit next to her mother.
“Mom, can I see it?” she asked curiously.
Dave glanced over his shoulder, wanting to be a part of the conversation as well, but they couldn’t afford to stop again.
“See what?” Angela asked in return.
“Oh, that. Of course,” she said and pulled the device from her robe pocket.
Paige took it in her hand and looked at it more closely. It was a small, black disc with a silver button.
“Mom, are you sure this is what you’ve been looking for?” Paige asked.
Her mother scowled in return. “Of course, I am. You think I don’t know how to use the device Brooke gave me?” she snapped back.
Why is she in such a bad mood again? We returned for that device, whatever it is, and we got it. She got what she wanted.
Of course, Paige questioned it’s worth. After everything, wasn’t she entitled to know? Her whole world had been turned upside down. It was difficult to know what was real and what wasn’t.
“Sorry, Paige. I didn’t mean to yell at you,” her mother added remorsefully, taking her by surprise.
“It’s ok,” Paige mumbled back, even though she didn’t think it was.
“No, it wasn’t. And I know you have trouble believing anything I say. I was in a mental institution, but I’m not an idiot.”
“Mom?” Paige said.
“Are you really...” Paige paused, unable to find the words she needed, though she needed to ask.
“Spit it out,” Angela prompted. “It’s all right.”
“Did you really have problems? Is that the reason you asked dad to take you there?”
To Paige’s complete shock, her mom started to laugh. “You could have just asked if I was crazy. I don’t mind,” her mother said between cackles.
“Maybe I’m a bit crazy, but who isn’t? Nowadays, people walk around the streets talking to themselves all the time, and nobody calls them crazy.”
She looked her mother in the eyes. “That’s because they’re not actually talking to themselves. They’re using Bluetooth headphones.”
Angela shrugged again. “That’s what you think.”
So, she was in the institution for real? Paige’s head swam at the thought.
“But to answer your original question, no,” Angela added as an afterthought. “I put myself in there because it has great security. Well, had good security,” she corrected herself. “Now crazies are all over the place, thanks to the Shadow Men.”
“But why there?” Paige asked. “Because that was the last place they would look for me,” she said with a wink. “Plus, you and Willow were relatively close by and much safer in the schools with their securities than you would have been with me. And...” she paused. It was obvious what she wanted to say was difficult.
Paige remained quiet, giving her mother the time, she needed to collect her thoughts.
“And your dad needed to start having a normal life. It became too dangerous for us to be together,”
Paige still didn’t know what actually went down between her parents when she was little. She always though Brooke disappearing triggered her mom’s overprotective behavior, but it was obvious she still very much-loved Paige’s father. Knowing that made Paige a little sad.
To love someone enough to let them go was incredibly selfless. Paige saw her mother from a different perspective.
She was still quirky, and maybe spending so much time among the troubled people and pretending to be one had some damaging effects on her. Still, as she said, everyone was a bit crazy. Nobody was perfect, and Paige was grateful she still had her by her side, crazy or not.
Mother and daughter hugged for several moments. It felt different than the others over the last few years. It was as if her mother explaining the truth had broken down an invisible barrier.
“We should get you something else to wear, so you’re not so noticeable,” Paige said.
Angela smiled. “Oh, I like the robe. My gun fits perfectly inside its pocket.”
“But wouldn’t you be more comfortable in something else?” As Paige spoke, another thought hit her. “Do we have everything for this trip? I mean, we’re planning to leave this planet for good.”
“Of course, we don’t have everything. There was no time for me to pack everything. I just brought the essentials,” her mother replied, slightly annoyed.
Paige couldn’t help but laugh. Angela wasn’t amused, but Paige was. She even heard Dave sniggering up front. Paige couldn’t understand why the bag of Kindles was labeled as essential for their survival, but she made peace with the fact that her mother looked at things differently.
“Ok, so we need supplies,” Paige thought out loud.
Where would they find everything they needed? It wasn’t like they had all the time in the world to browse around and shop.
“Yes, let’s go shopping,” her mother said with a nod of her head.
Paige raised an eyebrow. Only her mother could change her mood at the drop of a hat and be cheered by the idea of going “shopping” in the middle of an apocalypse.
“Ok, Mom, we will. I’ll just go tell Dave about our plans.”
“Do that. He is such a nice boy.”
Paige nodded in agreement as she raised from her seat and walked a short distance to the front of the minibus.
“You look lighter,” Dave commented.
Paige looked back toward her mom, a small smile on her lips. “I guess I am.”
“Look, Mom and I have been talking, and before we go to Fort Hamilton, we need supplies.”
Paige knew she had to talk with him about them leaving the planet, but she didn’t know how to start that conversation.
Dave nodded his head, never taking his eyes off the road.
He was right to be that vigilante. Anything could happen—including a person or even an alien running across the road and throwing a wrench in their plans.
“Do you know a place where we can get food, clothes, a first aid kit, and anything else we might need?”
Dave pondered over that for a second. “Yeah, I think I know a spot.” He suddenly grinned. “And you know the best part, Night-girl?”
She had to laugh every time he used that silly nickname for her. “What?” she asked, matching his level of excitement.
“It’s on the way to Fort Hamilton, so we won’t need to take a detour. That’s still not the best bit. It has a McDonald’s drive-thru.”
He was right, that was the best part.
With that settled, Paige decided to move back to her seat and try to enjoy the ride until they reached their next destination.
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