Inhabitable | Invasion Survivor Book Two | Chapter One
Though Paige’s mother didn’t like to be crowded, Paige was relieved her mother didn’t look infected and gave her a small hug. All I have to do is get back to Willow at Fort Hamilton and get off this planet to escape the deadly virus. No problem.
“It is good to see you, Mom. You look good,” Paige complimented.
Her mother narrowed her eyes as she leaned back, scrutinizing Paige and checking her over head to toe. Paige felt like a kid again or one of those girls in beauty pageants.
Did she need to twirl now?
Suddenly, her mother looked annoyed, crossing her arms over her chest. “Why do you have blood on you? Are you sick? No, you can’t be,” she answered her own question in a rush.
Paige looked down at herself, and sure enough, she looked like she had gone straight to hell and back. In a way, that was true.
She did just have to fight for miles to get Fort Hamilton to check that Willow was there after the army had taken her from the National History museum. Then on to the mental institution where her mother was staying. She needed to collect her and take her back to Fort Hamilton. After that, they’d be off to meet her father at NASA. So yeah, she would look a bit messed up.
Also, she’d given her white T-shirt to the jerk who had tried to steal her katana and bike. She’d wanted him to clean himself up, but it was more so to keep him from bleeding to death. She’d prepared to look better, but a person can’t really plan for the end of the world crap.
“It’s not my blood, Mom. I’ll explain later,” Paige said, waving her hand as if that was of no importance. “I don’t have the virus, but do you?”
Her mother’s answering laugh was high-pitched, and a bit maniacal. “Of course, I don’t have the virus.”
Paige felt relieved. That was one less thing she needed to worry about. As the relief fell over her, her eyes landed on all her mother’s belongings.
“Mom, you can’t bring all those bags with you,” Paige informed her.
The woman had four overstuffed bags that looked close to bursting. Looking toward the bike, where Dave still patiently waited, it dawned on her that there were three of them now, and only two places on the bike.
Great, just freaking great! she thought.
“But I need it all,” her mother complained, unaware of her revelation.
What are we going to do now? Paige wondered.
“Why do you need it?” Paige challenged, needing to occupy her mother so she could come up with a plan.
“To stop the Shadow Men,” Angela replied matter-of-factly, waving her arms up toward the sky. Paige suddenly noticed the golden honey gems around her wrist, catching the sunlight.
Mom is wearing the same bracelet as Willow and me.
“Mom. Where did you get that bracelet?” Paige asked, even though she already suspected what the answer would be.
Her mother looked at her as though she’d asked the most ridiculous question. “Brooke gave it to me. I see you are wearing yours,” she added, visibly relieved as she nodded in approval.
My sister, Brooke, has been missing for ten years. Willow first said she was talking to her and now Mom.
Paige started absentmindedly playing with her bracelet as if the small item could lend her the strength she needed to deal with her mother.
“Brooke was here?” Paige asked, trying to remain calm. Try as she might, she still felt as though she failed at it. She wondered if she was also seeing things, like Willow.
“Of course, she was! She’s not going to skip out on visiting her own mother!” Angela exclaimed. “Now… where’s Willow?” she asked, looking about. She jerked slightly when movement out of her peripheral caught her off guard. It was as though she’d forgotten he was there. She pointed in his direction. “And who is that?”
“That is my friend, Dave. He came to help us,” Paige replied matter-of-factly. That was the tone that worked best with her mother. Leave no room for doubt or hesitation.
“Hello, ma’am,” Dave replied with a smile.
Angela gave a curt nod before turning her focus back on Paige. “And what about Willow?” she demanded.
“She’s still at Fort Hamilton. I thought it would be best to leave her there and come to get you alone.”
“You did what?” her mother yelled at her.
“Look, Mom...” Paige sighed. After taking a much-needed breath, she explained the plan to her in a rush.
When she’d finished, Angela didn’t move. She was perfectly calm, but Paige knew that was even worse than if she’d had a fit. By the time the older woman opened her mouth to speak, her eyes were wild with rage. “You left her there all by herself?” she accused. “What is wrong with you!”
* * *
As Paige’s mother grew even more visibly agitated, walking back and forth and speaking to herself, Dave went to Paige.
“Hey,” he said, pulling her by the sleeve of her leather jacket. Paige looked as if she was about to apologize, but he cut her off. “I think I’ll go shopping.” He winked. “Will you be ok alone?”
She started to nod but then stopped, frowning. “What do you mean shopping?”
Dave grinned at her. “We will need bigger wheels, don’t you think?” he teased, sure she would chastise him back.
To his complete shock, she simply nodded. “Thanks. That would be great.”
Unsure if she was pulling his chains, Dave said cautiously, “Right. See you in five.”
Paige nodded in return, but her focus was already back on her mother.
Dave jogged away, going toward the back of the building. He logically assumed it had a parking lot and had hoped to find some cars. It was obvious to him that Paige needed a minute alone with her mother.
That must be tough, on all of them, he mused sympathetically.
His grandfather had dementia, so he knew firsthand how something that affected a person’s mind hurt anyone close to them. It was heartbreaking to watch someone you love go through that while being powerless to stop it.
Many illnesses had that same effect. In the end, it didn’t matter if it was the body or the mind that was affected. The strain, the hardship, was always the same.
Moving around the building, Dave came across a large car showroom. “Bingo, baby,” he said as he moved into the abandoned room.
Most of the spots were vacant. It was clear that the employees had already dashed away when the first warning blasted, but there were still some pretty sweet rides available. Dave could only stare for a few minutes before reminding himself he was on a strict schedule.
On the reserved spot that read Dr. Haverstad was the most beautiful two-seater Acura NSX. It was a gorgeous light silver. Dave’s mouth started to water as he looked at that perfection.
Getting closer, his eyes roamed over every curve, every detail. He was pleased the designers had kept the original design. Unable to help himself, he patted the hood, knowing full well that that baby held four engines underneath and could produce up to 573 horsepower.
To go from zero to sixty in less than three seconds... Dave swooned, daydreaming about borrowing the car and taking it out for a spin.
Suddenly, there was a thud quickly followed by a crack from above. Dave looked around for the source of the sound.
Just above Dave was a large window on the second floor. It had metal bars on the inside like the rest of them, but they looked askew. When the next crash followed, Dave watched in horror as someone pushed a massive table through the window, breaking it completely.
“No!” Dave screamed in horror as he watched the desk fall directly on top of the beautiful car he’d just been admiring.
“No!” he screamed again. He looked at the windowless hole and spotted a figure approaching.
A bald and bulky man in hospital pajamas stopped at the edge. Dave immediately thought of Uncle Fester from The Addams Family. The two looked strikingly similar. The fact that the man was covered in blood only completed the look. Even from that distance, Dave could see the distant look in his eyes.
Stage two, he thought.
“You are so dead!” Dave shouted and pointed at him.
Trying to hold back tears over the damaged dream car, Dave broke off a piece of the wooden table, creating himself a weapon. It resembled a cricket bat, but that just meant more impact points.
“You’re deader than dead,” Dave taunted. Unsurprisingly, it worked.
The affected man surveyed his position, and Dave watched in disbelief as he leaped from the second level. He landed on the back of the car, paused to cringe, and then jumped down to the ground. He acted as though it hadn’t taken much effort at all, and without losing his stride, he attacked.
Dave was ready for him.
He lifted his weapon and used the narrow part of the wood to jab his opponent hard in the neck. As Uncle Fester started to cough, Dave swung properly and hit him in the ear.
Blood sprayed all over, and he fell, though he didn’t stay down for long. From his low position, the man attacked and tackled Dave to the ground, holding him around the waist.
The air rushed out of Dave’s lungs with a hard whoosh, but he was able to recover quickly. The man tried to bite Dave on the neck, but he used his bat to prevent that from happening.
“What’s with all the teeth? I’m not a dentist,” he complained.
He swung in an upward arc, breaking all the man’s teeth in the process. It loosened his hold, allowing Dave to kick him off.
“There, much better,” he said, a bit winded. Unfortunately, that was all the reprieve he had because the vampire struck again.
Anticipating his movements, Dave was able to get the upper hand again. The man tried to grab Dave by the neck, but he twirled out of the way. Dave gained momentum as he spun around. Seizing the opportunity presented, he threw the next punch, hitting the other man hard in the side of the head.
Something cracked as the infected man went down. Dave lost his balance, too, but managed to stay on his feet.
“It’s time to wrap this up, my man,” Dave informed his opponent, raising his makeshift bat above his head.
Clearly sensing he was about to die; the infected man climbed to his feet and ran. He didn’t charge for Dave. Instead, he turned and ran past him.
Dave stood there, confused for a heartbeat before finally chasing after him. He was worried the infected man would run in Paige’s direction.
He’d almost caught up when a gunshot went off. The Uncle Fester look-alike slumped to the ground—dead.
Paige’s mother shot him.
Like mother like daughter, he thought.
Knowing the infected were on the loose and time was most likely running out, Dave decided not to waste time on pleasantries.
He returned to the parking lot to finish what he started.
Once he’d avenged the beautiful car that had been destroyed, Dave felt much better.
A pickup truck caught Dave’s eyes, but when he neared it, he noticed that something even better was parked at the very end.
“Paige is going to flip out,” he said, grinning like a maniac.
* * *
Paige watched as her mother paced back and forth. Her hands were in the air, and she acted as if she played an invisible, floating keyboard. With the mental institution behind her.
“Hide from the Shadow Man,” she said. Soon, she began to chant things Paige was all too familiar with. The same chants she used to do in the basement of their house when she was having one of her episodes.
They were running out of time, so Paige made herself useful and went through her mother’s bags. Just as predicted, most of it was pure junk except for a few outfits and some food. “Mom. Why do you need all—”
A woman’s shriek cut her off, and Paige abandoned her work, looking around to try and find the source. When she heard it again, Paige quickly realized it was coming from inside the institution.
Suddenly, more cries and pleas could be heard, each one coming from inside. One particular scream sent chills down Paige’s spine.
“Mom! Get away from the entrance!” Paige shouted, urging her mother to move. Still, no matter what was happening inside, they couldn’t run. They couldn’t leave.
Dave, please hurry!
“Do people in there have the virus?” Paige asked.
“Yes,” her mother replied flatly.
Paige went on high alert, pulling out her sword. She waited to see if anyone would emerge, holding the katana in an offensive position.
Her mother looked at her with a strange glint in her eyes but didn’t comment on the sword. It seemed to Paige that her mother approved. Carefully moving closer, Paige examined the door and frowned. There was a wooden plank neatly hammered across from the outside. It was obvious that someone wanted to prevent anyone inside from breaking out.
Turning to look at her daughter, her Angela smiled. “Do you like my handy work?” she asked as she approached.
Paige was speechless, even though she was just proven right.
“Your dad never thought I could do anything helpful with tools, but clearly, I did an excellent job,” her mother continued in a cheerful tone. She winked. “I only pretended I couldn’t.”
“Why did you do that?” Paige asked.
Angela shrugged. “Because he liked to use tools. Remember all of his different tool boxes he had?”
“Not that. I’m talking about why you trapped them inside.”
“Oh. To stop them from coming out,” she replied as if that was the most logical thing in the world. To her, it was.
Paige looked up and could see the barred windows all along the building. It didn’t seem like anyone was going to be able to get out.
My mom, the handyman. Who knew?
“Why aren’t we sick?” Paige hoped her mother might have an answer to the question that was nagging her ever since that whole nightmare started.
Paige had been forced to stand by and watch as all the people around her succumbed to the virus—but she was still there. She was still standing.
There has to be a reason why, she thought to herself.
“Let me see if I can find it,” Angela mumbled as she reached in one of her bags. Paige waited impatiently for the big revelation. “Aha, here it is. We are immune because of this.” In her hand was a bag of dirt.
Paige groaned in anger and frustration, wanting to smack herself across the forehead. “I can’t believe I fell for it again.”
I can’t believe I thought she was making sense again and knew what she was talking about. But, of course, she’s still my mother who believes dirt has the power to cure the virus.
Paige always believed in everything her mother told her, even when it was complete nonsense. She sometimes wondered if she was crazy as well. She figured she’d have to be to believe such things.
There was a loud crash as a part of the institution roof was thrown to the ground. Paige looked up and saw that the door leading to the rooftop was smashed open, and people were pouring out. They were running in circles, looking for a way to save themselves.
Paige’s focus shifted as she heard screams nearby. She turned to the side as a man in his hospital attire ran toward them. Dave was close behind, chasing after him with a determined look on his face.
Paige reached for her sword, but a loud bang echoed out around them. She looked up in time to see the man stumbled and clutch at his chest before slumping to the ground.
As he fell, Dave stopped hard, obvious shock in his expression. He recovered fast and waved at them, signaling everything was ok. Without a word, he turned and jogged back in the direction he’d come from.
Paige shook her head, unsure of what had just happened. She turned then, only to see her own mother holding a gun, a twisted smile on her face.
“I got him,” Angela announced with pride.
“Where did you get that?” Paige asked as she pointed toward the gun with a horrified expression.
“Brooke gave it to me,” her mother informed her, the smile on her face growing even bigger.
Paige stood staring at her in shock. “We really don’t have time for all this.” She rubbed her temples, doing her best to ward off an oncoming headache.
“What is taking that boy so long?” her mother asked with worry.
“Mom, pick a bag so we’re ready to go when Dave gets here.”
“But I need all of them,” Angela protested.
“I am not letting you bring all this... stuff with us. So, choose one, and let’s go.”
Sighing with obvious annoyance, Paige’s mother handed her the gun and searched through all her belongings. “I need this,” she muttered stuffing something into her bathrobe pocket.
As Paige watched her mother search through her things, she couldn’t help but feel relieved that she now held the gun and not her mother. It had scared Paige to see the other woman in possession of it.
Brooke gave it to her? she thought in exasperation.
Her mom was in a mood, pouting because she had to pick one thing over another.
Without warning, her mother’s eyes widened as she pointed behind Paige. “Shoot her!”
“What?” Paige asked, confused as she snapped out of her reverie.
She looked around, trying to figure out where the fire was. It was becoming more and more apparent that in their crazy world, some kind of shit was always going down. She followed her mother’s finger and saw a woman slowly approaching them.
She didn’t look sick, menacing, nor did she try to attack them in any way. Her clothes were a bit shabby, but who’s wasn’t?
“Please help me,” she said, barely above a whisper. “Don’t shoot.” She put her hands up in surrender as she continued to approach them.
“Paige, shoot her,” her mother insisted.
Paige didn’t react. She didn’t do anything. It was possible the woman needed help, and Paige couldn’t shoot her for that. They were struggling for survival, that much was true, but that didn’t mean they should become animals. If they lost their humanity—their compassion, kindness, empathy—then they didn’t deserve to live at all.
Paige looked at her mother before looking back to the woman. As her eyes met the newcomer’s, her face twisted. Paige watched as the woman’s expression turned monstrous with her eyes bulging and her mouth pulled into a bone-chilling grin.
“HELP ME!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, making Paige jump and drop the gun.
“Fuck,” Paige cursed, quickly retreating backward until she hit her mother’s front.
“I told you to shoot her,” her mother said calmly.
“Not now, Mom,” Paige whined, taking her sword out and mentally preparing herself for a fight.
The woman lunged, and Paige reacted, slashing her across the stomach which effectively wiped the terrifying smile off her face.
Paige didn’t wait for her to attack again before charging. As she rushed forward, the sound of an engine and a horn beeping stopped her fast. A minibus was gunning straight for them. Before Paige could panic and run away screaming, it turned and ran over the infected woman instead.
Paige instinctively turned away as human flesh contacted with steel at full speed. The sounds of bones breaking and metal giving made her stomach twist.
Needing confirmation the threat was, in fact, gone, Paige took a deep breath and turned to look. The bus had turned around and ran over the woman one last time before coming to a stop directly in front of Paige.
When the door opened, Paige saw Dave’s grinning face. “Perfect timing as always, right?” he asked with a wink.
“A minibus?” Paige asked curiously.
Dave jumped out and shrugged. “With our body count, it was the best choice. Plus, I can load up the bike.”
Paige simply nodded in return, not feeling much like talking after all that had just happened.
“All aboard!” he yelled before rushing to collect the motorcycle as Angela happily picked up each one of her bags and went inside.
Paige’s mother leaned out of the bus. “Stop dilly-dallying and get on the bus. We need to get Willow, then to your father, and then get the hell off the planet before,” she paused, then whispered, “the Shadow Men take it over.”
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