Inhabitable | Invasion Survivor Book Two | Chapter Seventeen
They ran with everything they had toward the buildings across the streets. It was an apartment building, but they kept going anyway. Paige quickly looked behind her, and to her despair, the police officer had gotten up and was now coming after them.
All the bullets Paige emptied inside of him seemed to make him slower, but she had no way of knowing how long that would last.
“What are we going to do?” Tilley cried out, noticing him, too. Both Tilley and Peter were frightened and didn’t let go of Paige’s hand.
Tilley reminded Paige of Willow so much, and she wanted to scream as well, but she found comfort in knowing that she was with their mother, even if it was on an alien spaceship. Besides, Paige was preoccupied at the moment, so she banished all other thoughts and focused solely on their survival.
“We’ll hide in one of the apartments. Don’t worry,” Paige tried to reassure them in a rush, even though she felt like she needed someone else to comfort her.
They ran inside, and Paige paused for a second to see if there was something she could use to jam the door closed, but there was nothing.
“Come,” she said, pushing them inside. She was ticked off at herself for wasting precious seconds in vain.
Running up the stairs, all Paige could think was, Third time’s a charm. Since the alien attack, no one wanted to let other people into their homes. She just hoped they would get lucky this time.
Paige checked the doors as they ran. They were all closed except for one at the end, so they ran towards it. As they got nearer, they could see a small old woman’s face, peeking out from the inside.
Her face was as wrinkly as her clothes. Once she noticed them, she opened her door wider and stood in the doorway with a finger on her lips. She looked at them and gestured for them to follow her inside.
At last, someone is willing to help us, Paige thought, feeling relieved.
At the same time, Paige couldn’t help being wary of strangers, so she started looking around, searching for any signs of a Shadow Man.
Cats walked around the old woman’s feet as she ushered them inside.
“Come in. Come in,” she said with a small smile. They silently followed her. Looking around, Paige noticed she had a very tiny apartment with a lot of cats.
“Take a seat here on this chair,” the old lady said, gesturing to a chair. She started to fuss over suddenly having so much company. “I will make some tea for you to drink. You look so tired,” she added in a soft voice.
“Thank you, ma’am, for letting us into your home,” Paige said politely, and the old woman simply waved with her hand as if it was no bother at all.
“I’m no ma’am, my dear. Call me Miss Dolly.”
They sat down, still clinging to one another, and nervously waited for the sound of the police officer to find and take them.
The old woman went into the kitchen, and they heard the kettle going. Some of the cats followed her, but a few brave ones remained. One even came to sniff at Paige’s pants, but when she reached for to give it a pet, it retreated.
“What are we going to do now, Paige?” Tilley asked in a hushed voice.
“For now, we’ll just stay here,” Paige replied.
And hope the policeman doesn’t discover us, she added silently.
Suddenly, there was a sharp knock at the door. Paige jumped up, knowing there was only one person who could be standing on the other side.
Miss Dolly slowly walked to open it.
“Please, don’t open it,” Paige begged with urgency. “Please! There’s one of those Shadow Men out there. Don’t open it, please!” she repeated.
She took a step toward the old woman but then stopped when she proceeded without a word, as if Paige hadn’t said anything at all.
Frantically, Paige looked around, trying to find a way out, but there was nowhere to escape. They were trapped and out of bullets.
The door opened, and the police officer strode in with Miss Dolly. Paige could easily see the bullet wounds in his shirt where she’d shot him, and blood was seeping from them. He looked at her smugly.
Paige gasped, and Tilley screamed while Peter jumped on the chair and hid behind them. Without anywhere to run, they were glued to the spot, but Paige carefully watched for an opening. She certainly wasn’t about to go down without a fight.
“I’m so pissed off!” the officer told Miss Dolly, ignoring Paige’s little group for a second. “I guess I’ll have to go up for a new body. Look what they’ve done to this one!” he complained, shooting Paige an annoyed look.
She glared back. If she had any more bullets, she would certainly use them on him again.
“You shouldn’t be the one to complain, Garrett. I, too, want to hurry and get out of this body and away from these cats!” Miss Dolly said in return, kicking one of them away from her, while looking angry.
Apparently done with the small talk, they turned to Paige, Tilley, and Peter. In a move Paige wouldn’t have believed was possible for someone that old, Miss Dolly jumped forward and grabbed Tilley. The police officer—Garrett, as they had learned—tried to grab Paige, but she wiggled out of the way.
“Peter, hide!” Paige yelled, thinking that at least one of them could escape, but to her chagrin, he stayed put.
He ran around the room, throwing various items at the aliens. First, he grabbed hold of a lamp, but his aim was way off. The only thing he managed to do was give a good scare to some cats that now ran around, creating additional chaos. He did much better with a potted plant. He threw and hit Miss Dolly right in the head. He hit her with such force the pot broke on impact and showered the Host with dirt.
Dave would fight as well.
Remembering she still had the gun, Paige grabbed it and pointed at the alien police officer.
He grinned, calling her bluff. “I know you are out of bullets,” he said and, with a kick, knocked the weapon out of her hand.
Paige’s hand got a beating as well, but she still refused to surrender. He came at her again, but she punched him in the face.
There were several bloody holes in his body, and that gave her an idea. She started hitting him in the areas where she’d shot him. AJ said he didn’t feel pain anymore, but Paige was hoping additional damage would at least slow him down.
It worked, to a degree. They traded punches, and Paige held her ground. She was confident she could even win, despite the fact that this Host was stronger than the regular virus-infected human.
Paige pivoted and kicked Garrett straight in the stomach where most of his wounds were, but she mis stepped while landing. Her leg ended up on a cat rather than the floor, and she lost her balance. It was only a moment of split focus, but it was enough to lose.
Suddenly, Paige felt pressure against her neck, and weakness seized her.
“No,” she breathed out, and Garrett grinned as he got closer to her face.
Paige’s body completely stopped working. She was paralyzed, but her mind remained alert. Being conscious of her surroundings and what was going on while being unable to do anything about it made her panic, but there wasn’t a thing she could do about it.
He let her drop to the floor, and even though she couldn’t feel anything, she was certain that drop had hurt.
Tilley was already on the floor in the same fashion, but Paige was especially saddened to see Peter following suit. The old lady subdued him quite easily, even though he was kicking her and screaming at the top of his lungs.
“Let me go! You’re an old hag!” Peter shouted before he, too, was forced into submission.
Dave would have been proud of Peter.
“I want to come up with you and take her body,” Miss Dolly told Garrett as she pointed at Paige. “Her body will be an upgrade from this old ugly one.”
Paige was outraged. She didn’t want to be some empty vessel for these bastards. Paige refused to be that! She would have to find a way out of this predicament like before.
That was much easier said than done when you weren’t even in control of your own body.
Terror washed over her like a huge ocean wave, feeling like this time she truly was backed into a corner. Like many times before, she became frightened.
Paige, Peter and Tilley were being carried out of the building, and she wasn’t far behind. The world was now upside down to Paige as she was thrown over the police officer’s shoulder like a sack of rice.
Once again, she tried to move, to break free in any way, but her entire body was frozen. It was impossible to do anything, no matter how much she tried.
Mind over matter. Come on, Paige, she urged herself. Mind over matter!
The Hosts took them to the center of the street. Paige could see the shadow of the spaceship on the ground, and she became very aware that she was about to receive a one-way ticket on board. She just hoped and prayed that AJ was still up there.
He couldn’t even be pissed at her for following him since she did exactly as he asked. At the end, Paige got her wish after all, because she was about to be reunited with her family one way or another. A bright light came down from the spaceship and illuminated the pavement.
“Oh, no!” Miss Dolly huffed, breaking the silence. She sounded rather disappointed. “I’m not allowed up until the humans have been contained.”
Paige grinned since that meant she wouldn’t become that old hag’s new suit. Within moments, the light shone on them, and Paige felt like she was being lifted through the beam along with the police officer. They were moving through the sky up to the spaceship.
“You’re going to wish they’d put you in the work camp,” Garrett whispered. “You’re going to beg them to put you in the camp. Instead, they’re going to punish you for shooting me. Do you have any idea how uncomfortable it is to change bodies? You deserve proper punishment for ruining this one, but you’ll get your punishment. Don’t worry. They’re going to torture and enslave you. Then they’ll leave you for us to kill.”
He taunted her, and since Paige couldn’t talk, only breathe, she was forced to listen. She wished she could taunt him right back.
Because life is compiled of small joys, she thought.
The ground quickly faded away as they moved up through the spaceship’s beam. Once they were inside, Garrett left her on the floor.
I will kill you for this, Paige vowed, never before feeling so much hate toward someone.
Soon, Paige started to travel through the ship on a moving floor. Even from her vantage point, she could see how the ship was laid out. Eventually, they passed room lined with people in closed pods.
“Please, help!” one man shouted, banging against the unbreakable glass.
“Help me out!” a girl around Paige’s age screamed.
The people trapped inside the pods were screaming to get out, and once again, Paige felt completely helpless to do anything about it. Unlike before, when her sister and mother were being taken, she was now physically disabled as well.
The entire room was filled with the deafening sounds of people’s cries and shrieks, and it broke her heart. But as sad as she was for them, the hate toward the aliens made her feel better.
Paige couldn’t help but wonder if her mother and sister were there somewhere as well. She tried to scan the faces of all the people in the pods as she was being moved, but Paige couldn’t spot either of them.
This is a complete disaster, she thought in despair.
Maybe she should just surrender and accept her fate calmly. She was too tired of fighting anyway. They were all captured now, so the battle was already lost.
Hell, no! she rebelled against herself. I will fight until the end! Until my last ounce of energy! She had some extra now, since the virus had done something to her body.
With renewed spirit, Paige watched as the black mass slowly filled the pods, drowning the people inside. There were others who were naked, stepping out of pods. They seemed to be normal, but Paige was sure they weren’t.
Somehow, she knew the black mass was inside them now. Their bodies were full of it. They had become Hosts.
If the people were awake at the start of the process, their bodies weren’t paralyzed like mine, she mused.
Maybe there was a chance to get out of this, but only if the process of filling the pods was delayed. That idea gave her hope. Maybe the battle was indeed lost, but not the war.
Paige tried with everything she had to will her body to move. She wasn’t quite sure how to do it. No matter what she did, Paige still had no feeling anywhere.
The room was long and housed many pods that were lined up along the walls. They looked like props from some sci-fi movie but scarier since these were real.
Paige managed to look down at the ground and saw that the floor was still moving her forward. She knew she had to get out of here somehow, off that conveyor belt, before her body was thrown in one of those pods and taken over like those she’d just witnessed.
Paige just didn’t know how. Right now, she was a prisoner inside her own body.
If only I could move on my own…
A few seconds later, the floor stopped moving. That didn’t make her feel better, though, because she suspected what would come next.
Paige was roughly positioned upright and lined up with others by the wall. All of them looked as if they were frozen, just like her. There was a certain comfort in the notion that she wasn’t the only troublemaker.
The room looked too clinical for Paige’s liking. It was dimly lit, chilly, and completely bare. Maybe it was just the trick of the poor light, but it looked like the walls were moving.
Others entered the room and approached them. Even though they looked completely human, Paige knew they weren’t. She noticed that she didn’t know any of them, and that was a relief.
No matter the gender, each worker wore the same green uniform. The color was a huge contrast against the rest of this place. They appeared almost cheerful walking around in a glum place like this one.
The slaves began to cut off the other people’s clothes. Paige could hear the sound of them throwing away the jewelry of those they stripped. Paige started to worry about that on top of everything else.
She panicked. What was she to do if they took her bracelet? They would certainly see the golden aura.
Paige had no idea what would happen next, and her anxiety kicked up as a result. She held her breath since that was the only thing she was still in charge of. She hoped they wouldn’t notice her wrist, wishing it would become invisible or something.
No… no… she mentally screamed as another Host started tending to her. There was no doubt in her mind—he saw it.
A paralyzed man standing next to Paige started to twitch. As he tried to break free of the invisible restraints, all eyes turned on him. He managed to move a little bit, then a bit more. The black liquid-like mass appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.
Was that thing part of the ship? Paige wondered.
It tightened around the man’s feet, then around his legs before engulfing him and preventing him from moving altogether. He was captured again. There was no way to get away from it.
The worker who was going to take off Paige’s bracelet waited patiently for the man to be fully subdued. Taking something from his pocket, he injected the contents of a very small device into the man’s neck, and his movements stopped. He was paralyzed once again.
The worker nodded, pleased that the drug had worked, and the black mass retreated. The slave moved on to the next person.
Paige couldn’t believe it.
He forgot about my bracelet! she mentally cheered.
Feeling almost joyous, Paige let out the breath she’d been holding, silently thanking the person standing next to her. If he hadn’t created that distraction, everything would be that much harder for Paige.
She couldn’t even think about what could have happened if they’d discovered her glow. What would they do to her then? Outright kill her?
Probably, she thought dreadfully.
The workers finished undressing the captured humans, including Paige, in complete silence. To Paige’s complete horror, they were each placed in a pod. The glass doors closed around her, and she wished she still had a voice to scream.
No! No! No! This can’t be happening! No, please God no!
Paige started to feel cold air brushing all over the body, and she cursed life’s perfect timing for irony, as the black mass started to fill the pod.
She felt sensations all over her body as if it was finally waking up. After all that sensory deprivation, it felt weird and overwhelming.
Still, Paige wanted to use the small chance she had and run away. Like all the others before her, Paige fought to get out and tried to open the glass doors, but the black mass moved to tightly wrap around her ankles and wrists, holding her in place.
“No,” she managed to choke out. “Let me out! Let me out now!” she screamed, her voice taking on a more hysterical tone as she banged against the pod’s door until her hands hurt.
That didn’t stop her. Paige should have known movement would make the black mass active and aggressive, but she saw no other choice.
Suddenly, it was impossible to move. Paige was completely trapped in the pod with the black alien liquid quickly rising towards her face. It started to seep up her nose and, in her ears, and Paige started to cough. No matter what she did, it continued to move on its own volition.
Paige felt like that thing was slowly, painfully drowning her. It was cold, making her shiver. It was hot, making her burn. She screamed even though no one was there to hear it.
Then suddenly, just like that, it was over.
All the pain disappeared.
The mass was inside Paige’s body.
I am a host, she thought, and that changed everything.
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