Inhabitable | Invasion Survivor Book Two | Chapter Thirteen
Being trapped inside that wardrobe made Paige sick to her stomach. She should have tried to save other people. Yes, she managed to save the family from this apartment, but maybe she felt like she should have done more. There was always a way, but in the end, she was too afraid to come out and fight.
AJ still held her tightly, somehow knowing she would fall apart if he let her go. She was hugging Dave in return and could feel the steady beating of his heart under her palms.
Paige hated being in this building, in this apartment, in this wardrobe, but AJ’s presence and Dave’s calmness put her at ease—to a degree. Once again, she was grateful to have them beside her.
Maybe it would be better if they weren’t so close. But what would I have done if I’d been all alone in this scary place? A sudden thought came, and she shook her head, not wanting to think about it.
Then her mind drifted to Willow. I should have been with her, she scolded herself. At the same time, Paige knew her mother would keep her safe.
They’re probably hiding in a place just like this one.
The screams throughout the building eventually died down, and Paige said a prayer for all the lives that were lost because one group of beings decided it was all right to invade another and take their home away.
Paige really strained to listen, but the soft and eerily calming waves couldn’t be heard anymore.
“Hey, guys,” Paige whispered, then stopped because her voice sounded terrible after all that crying. She attempted to quietly clear her throat, then tried again. “Do you think it’s safe for us to leave the wardrobe?”
She was eager to go find her mother and sister. She guessed Dave felt the same way about Peter, wanting to make sure with his own eyes that he was still safe and sound.
There was a slight pause as the guys pondered over her question. Dave shrugged, but AJ decided to reply to her, just not in a way she’d hoped.
“Paige, why did you ask if they don’t like sunlight?” AJ asked.
“What?” she replied in confusion.
“Earlier, on the rooftop,” he reminded her.
It was her turn to shrug. “I just remembered something. When we were little, our mother made us hide in a wardrobe just like this one, so the Shadow Man couldn’t find us. We had to stay hidden until morning.”
Surprisingly, this was the first time she’d shared with someone how screwed-up her childhood really was. Even so, she didn’t feel self-conscious about it because she knew they weren’t going to feel sorry for her or judge her in any way.
“Then I guess it’s better if we stay here,” AJ replied carefully.
“Yeah,” Dave chipped in. “If your mom is right and they don’t like the sunlight, we should definitely stay.”
“What, better safe than sorry?” Paige only half-joked.
“Yeah,” they replied almost in unison.
Paige nodded in return, guessing they were probably right. Besides, this was exactly what her mother would want her to do. But just because they stayed hidden didn’t mean she could stay quiet.
“What do you think they’re going to do with the people they’ve captured?” Paige wondered out loud.
“Who knows?” AJ started. “Maybe they’ll force them to work on their home planet.”
“Or maybe they need us to prepare this planet for them,” Dave added.
“So, what you’re both saying is you think we’ll all become slaves for them?” Paige shuddered.
Becoming an alien’s slave sounded just horrible. Paige imagined herself and her loved ones as slaves, and the thought brought new tears to her eyes. This time, she forced them back. She’d done enough crying. Besides, that never solved anything, and it certainly didn’t make her feel any better.
Apparently, she didn’t fool anyone with her tough act.
“Hey,” AJ half-whispered, “you’re safe here with us. We’ll never let anything happen to you. Right, Dave?”
“Yeah, man. I mean, I wouldn’t squeeze into a wardrobe with just anyone, “Dave replied.
AJ gently patted Paige on her head, which felt nice, comforting. Paige chuckled, not being able to help herself, and the guys joined in as well.
“Maybe this end of the world crap has some good points,” Paige said, still laughing.
“Aww, that’s so sweet,” Dave said.
“You’re just the best, guys,” AJ teased.
They continued to do so for quite some time, and eventually, Paige started to yawn. “I think I should take a nap.” She’d barely finished speaking when another yawn hit her.
“Yeah, you must be very tired now,” Dave agreed, yawning himself.
“You two try to get some sleep,” AJ urged. “I’ll keep watch.”
Paige realized he was right. Snuggling up as much as possible while being in such a cramped space, Paige closed her eyes. She was beyond tired, and at that point, she didn’t have the strength to walk, let alone fight against an alien army.
“Good night,” she murmured to no one in particular and surrendered to the nothingness that wanted to claim her.
* * *
Some part of AJ knew it was weird of him to feel so happy and content at that moment while holding Paige in a cramped, stuffy, dark wardrobe as she slept.
He told that part of himself to shut up.
Even the presence of another guy couldn’t ruin his moment of happiness. That was seriously messed up. He actually liked the guy. Dave was obviously skilled and had a sense of humor similar to his own. AJ even noticed that he, too, had a small crush on Paige, but he couldn’t hold that against him. After all, that was just a sign of good taste.
It was trickier to know what Paige thought. She still acted all cute when he invaded her personal space, blushed, stumbled, but the way she acted with Dave?
Nope, he wasn’t going to get jealous. Not now.
AJ completely lost all sense of feeling in his lower body a while back, but he couldn’t care less. It was totally worth it to be with Paige here and now.
It did make him regret wasting all those years being too insecure to simply approach her and ask her out. He didn’t even have to go that far. Becoming friends with her would suffice. At least that would be something.
Even now, he fantasized about kissing her so much that he almost did it. He managed to convince himself it would be too awkward afterward since there were three of them in that wardrobe. Still, having her this up and close, sensing her delicate perfume, touching her soft skin, made him crazy. How could he not think about it?
AJ could practically feel her soft lips against his until they almost tingled, and he just knew she would feel perfect against his body.
Ok, perv, enough with that, he snapped at himself. You will have plenty of time to fantasize about kissing her, or better yet, actually kissing her some other time. He needed to stay vigilant now and listen for any signs of danger.
He could hear Francis softly laughing at him in the back of his head, but AJ ignored that. Then AJ realized this was the longest he’d gone without hearing his alien companion. It was nice having only his own voice inside his head for a change.
As much as he appreciated the silent treatment, it freaked him out even more. That could only mean the bastard was plotting something, trying to find a way to get to Paige.
The Shadow Men were everywhere, looking for them, and AJ didn’t know how to avoid them in the long run. Those and other thoughts plagued him for a while, but eventually, he lost consciousness, too. It felt like someone had unplugged him.
* * *
Paige woke up stiff as a board and with a full bladder. She felt like she’d slept for a few hours. AJ was fast asleep behind her, leaning against the wardrobe wall, but he still held her protectively. She couldn’t believe she’d fallen asleep in his arms. That made her smile, but unfortunately, this was no time for little girl crushes.
She had to leave that wardrobe ASAP and go to the bathroom.
Paige didn’t want to wet her pants right there with AJ and Dave sleeping next to her. Dave was pressing against her from the front, making her stomach practically pulse in despair.
That particular feeling made her remember when she’d wet her pants as a kid while spending the night in the wardrobe with Willow. They were locked away by their mother, and Paige hadn’t been able to hold it anymore.
She couldn’t let that happen again, and it certainly wouldn’t happen in the company of these guys. They would tease her to no end. She blushed thinking about it. Not seeing another way, she started to gently rock Dave, urging him to wake up.
“What?” Dave asked suddenly.
“Shh,” she shushed him, not wanting to wake AJ up. “I need to get out,” she whispered in his ear.
“Oh, right,” he said, yawning so loudly she wanted to smack him on the head.
Dave fiddled with the key to unlock the wardrobe door, and he wasn’t trying to be silent at all. Paige could tell there wasn’t any sunlight in the bedroom. It wasn’t morning yet.
Dave stood first and cursed. “Damn, I can’t feel my legs at all,” he complained, jumping around.
Paige looked around, trying to see if everything was ok. The bedroom looked clear of the creepy black wave, so she breathed a sigh of relief and tried to be quiet as she followed him out.
Her legs were still asleep, and her knees buckled, but luckily, Dave held her upright.
“By the way, you snore,” he deadpanned, and she smacked him.
“I do not,” she replied, outraged.
“Oh, yes, you do,” he replied stubbornly. “You sound like this.” He then proceeded to mimic her. He inhaled loudly than let out a sigh that sounded more like. “Mimi mimi mimi.”
She couldn’t help but laugh, which reminded her she needed to pee and now.
“Stop making me laugh,” she complained, moving away from him. “I need to pee.”
“Give me the key first,” Dave said. She looked at him with confusion. “To free the family. Maybe they need a bathroom break as well.”
“Good point,” she said, fishing the key out of her pocket.
Once she handed it over, she dashed off to do her business. Paige didn’t quite know where the bathroom was, but she made a guess she was grateful had been correct.
She silently entered the bathroom. She wasn’t sure why she bothered with stealth after all the noise she and Dave just made. She was amazed AJ slept through all that.
It seemed to take an eternity to empty her bladder with how full it was. Subconsciously, her hand went to flush the toilet, and it was rather noisy.
“Oh, crap!” Paige whispered.
It was one thing to make a little noise, but this was something else entirely. Water running would be able to be heard through the whole apartment building. It was like she wanted them to get caught.
She blamed it on being tired, and she definitely knew she was hungry. So maybe that was why her brain wouldn’t operate normally.
Sanitizing her hands, Paige wondered what life would be like on Earth now that aliens had arrived. She had no idea, and it was hard to imagine. All poor people who had survived the virus now had aliens to deal with.
Aliens must have sent the virus down to reduce the population, so the planet would be easier to take over.
Either way, she was glad they were going to leave Earth. Witnessing the worst humanity had to offer on top of an alien invasion made Earth a sad place to be, to say the least.
She hoped they would get to her dad in time to leave the planet. Also, she couldn’t help but wonder if there were other aliens out there. What did they look like? What did they do?
She brushes her hair with her hand, Paige listened carefully. She couldn’t hear anything, so she decided to go to the kitchen and see if she could find something to eat before returning to the wardrobe.
If AJ hadn’t been sleeping in there, Paige probably wouldn’t go back at all. Dave already beat her to the kitchen, and the scared Ota family was with him.
“Hey, Paige, you look like a human being again,” he said, referring to her washed face and semi-brushed hair.
“Haha,” she replied, but it was all for show. Paige couldn’t quite take offense since he was right.
“You should try it yourself,” she countered. “Oh, wait, you can’t wash that,” she gestured toward him. “That’s just your face.”
He grinned in return.
Paige was really glad to see the family still here and was about to say something when Mrs. Ota beat her to the punch.
“Thank you, Paige,” Mrs. Ota said emotionally as she rushed toward her to embrace her.
Paige was too stunned for a second to do anything.
“We heard everything,” Mr. Ota added. “You saved our lives.”
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Mrs. Ota added.
“It was my pleasure,” Paige replied a bit sheepishly.
The woman released her and returned to her son and husband.
“We should go now,” Mr. Ota said.
At that moment, Paige noticed the parents were fully dressed. “You can’t leave yet. It’s not safe until morning,” Paige said, panic in her voice.
“My brother lives one floor below with his family. I have to see what happened to them,” Mr. Ota explained.
Paige could relate to that. Her family was everything to her as well.
“I see,” Paige replied. “But please be careful. Stay hidden until morning. I don’t think they like the sun very much.”
After another round of thank-you’s, they sprung to action. In less than two minutes, Kaito was dressed, and Mr. Ota had packed a few belongings while Mrs. Ota gathered the food.
“You’re welcome to help yourself to anything you like,” Mrs. Ota gestured toward the refrigerator.
“Thank you,” Dave and Paige replied in unison.
Mrs. Ota gave her another quick hug, and just like that, they were gone.
I hope they’ll make it, Paige thought to herself.
“Hungry?” Dave inquired, snapping her from her reverie.
“Starving,” she confessed.
They opened the cupboards and searched for something to eat and drink. Dave made them sandwiches, and Paige cheered when she scrounged up a pack of cookies for dessert. They completed the meal with a few bottles of water Dave had found before walking back towards the wardrobe.
Suddenly, they heard a mild rushing sound, and both of them froze.
Is that the wave, or is my mind playing tricks on me? Paige panicked.
If there was nothing wrong with her hearing, then they had a very limited time before being discovered.
“Do you—” Dave started, but she shushed him.
Paige strained to hear and became certain she heard the calm swishing sound, typical of the black wave.
The wave is moving towards us!
She reached for the small of her back, but there was no gun there. It must have dropped in the wardrobe while she slept, not that it would do her any good. It was without bullets, and it had proven useless when Dave tried to shoot one of them.
Panic took over as Paige realized she had no weapons other than a pack of cookies.
The black mass entered the apartment. It crept slowly, under the doors like a fine mist, but it grew rapidly, solidifying before finding them in the kitchen. Dave came to stand next to her.
In fear and desperation, Paige threw the water bottle Dave gave her at the fast-approaching black mass, but it did nothing. She turned toward Dave, snatched his and repeated the motion, but to no avail. The black mass kept moving, and the water bottles bobbed on the top of the wave, carried with the current.
“Paige, what should we do?” Dave asked in a hushed voice, freaked out as much as she was.
Paige shook her head. She didn’t know what else to do. She threw everything on the counter in front of her, all the utensils, as well as the box of the cookies, even though she knew it wouldn’t do them any good.
“Great, now we’re going to be captured and hungry,” Dave snapped.
Then she remembered they were in the kitchen, so she moved them quickly toward the cupboards.
“Look for a big knife,” she instructed.
It was becoming exponentially difficult to move in any direction since the mass was closing in on them. Before either one of them could move to find anything useful, it was too late.
The mass reached Paige’s feet. She squawked and tried to move away, but there was nowhere to run.
The wave gripped her tightly around the feet, shocking her at how strong it was. The illusion of the mass being a wave of shadow was just that, an illusion. No matter what she did, she couldn’t get out of it.
“I can’t move!” She panicked.
“Me neither,” Dave replied, panic in his voice as well.
“What will happen to us now?” Paige wondered out loud.
Did all the people who’d been captured before them felt the same way? She gripped the counter and tried to drag her feet into the air, but they felt like they were dipped in a concrete, and the mass didn’t stop there.
It continued to swallow her, surrounding her ankles, then moving upwards while she struggled fruitlessly with her whole body.
It worked up towards her throat, almost drowning her. Her heart pounded like crazy, and her old fear of feeling trapped resurfaced with a vengeance. She felt like screaming, crying, and pleading all at the same time.
“Dave!” she cried out, trying to reach toward him, but she felt paralyzed to do anything. The mass was much stronger than she was, and she couldn’t move any part of her body.
“Paige,” he replied, his body being swallowed just like hers.
Suddenly, Paige felt her feet being lifted off the ground as the wave started to slowly drag her out of the kitchen.
“AJ!” Paige screamed as the wave pulled her toward the hallway.
Dave was a couple of feet in front of her, struggling fruitlessly. He was trying to grab hold of something, anything that would prevent the wave from taking him away, but the mass was relentless. No matter how hard Dave fought back, it slowly, steadily moved him toward the front door.
Paige fought frantically, trying to get free, but the wave continued toward the exit. Paige grew increasingly fatigued without accomplishing anything.
Her struggles did nothing as the wave gripped her like quicksand. The more Paige fought, the less control she had of herself, and as she’d already noted, she’d become weaker by the second.
Suddenly, the wave took an even firmer grip on her body. Even though the being seemed cloud-like, it was powerful.
“AJ!” Paige pleaded. He was their only hope.
AJ was still asleep. If only he hadn’t been sleeping deep inside the wardrobe with the doors tightly closed, maybe he would have heard her and come to their rescue.
The mass broke the front door off its hinges. There was nothing stopping it now as it carried them out. Over the roaring wave, Paige heard the most wonderful sound. The wardrobe had been opened.
“AJ! We’re here. Help us!” she shouted with all her might.
“The wave got us! Over here, AJ!” Dave cried out.
Dave was at the door, gripping the frame, but the mass moved upward, capturing his arms and forcing his grip to loosen.
“Dave!” Paige yelled as he was carried out.
“Paige! Dave! I’m coming!” AJ shouted back. His words were followed with a bang as if he’d practically torn off the wardrobe door to reach them.
In a few seconds which felt like hours, AJ appeared, making her both panic for his well-being and hopeful for herself and Dave. Paige started to fear the black wave would embrace him as well, but it didn’t.
In fact, the black mass avoided AJ altogether, parting to each side and moving around him.
What. The. Hell. What am I seeing?
“AJ, why is it moving away from you?” Paige asked looking at him in wonder.
He seemed to have a negative effect on the wave, as if it was afraid of him.
How was he able to do that? Paige always suspected there was something different about AJ, but this showed her how dead on the mark she really was.
It wasn’t like she’d suspected he had superpowers or something like that, but he was definitely different. Paige and her sisters were different, too, but this was on a whole new level.
As AJ got closer to Paige, the black mass weakened its grip more and more, eventually freeing her enough, so she could run towards AJ. He embraced her at once.
A circle began to form around them like a secret protective sphere or a trap they couldn’t escape, she couldn’t decide which. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Grateful AJ had saved her, she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tight. As she held him, she thought of Dave.
“Dave!” she exclaimed. “We have to help him! The black wave has him, too.” She turned to look for him, but he was nowhere in sight.
“Dave!” she screamed.
“Paige, don’t move, or they’ll come,” AJ whispered to her.
“What? But Dave... Who will come?” she asked, realizing what he said. Paige, loosening her grip on him, moved away slightly from him so she could look into his eyes—but AJ remained silent.
“What do you know about this? Why do you know what will happen next?” Paige bombarded him with questions, getting more and more agitated by the second.
Her heartbeat increased in speed as she struggled to catch her breath. Anxiety rose inside of her. Paige was suddenly afraid to hear what he was going to say.
“The Shadow Men will come, Paige. The ones we saw on the street,” he said, looking away from her, seemingly ashamed. “I know that because I’m one of them.”
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