Inhabitable | Invasion Survivor Book Two | Chapter Twelve
The Shadows were approaching the apartment and fast. Paige knew they were running out of time.
“You need to get into a wardrobe and stay silent. Hide there until morning,” Paige said in a hurry, urging them toward the bedrooms, but they wouldn’t budge.
“We’re not going anywhere with you,” the father said.
What is wrong with these people? She fumed. Paige knew what was wrong with them. She’d thought the same for years when her mother made her climb into the wardrobe.
“I think we got off on the wrong foot here,” AJ interjected. “Hello, my name is AJ, and these are my friends Paige and Dave. And you are?”
The man was slightly taken aback by the change of pace, but replied nevertheless. “My name is Akari Ota, and this is my wife Sora and my son Kaito.”
“We’re so sorry to bother you, Mr. Ota, but it’s a war zone out there. We’ve been through hell trying to get from Rosehill to Maryland. Trust us when we say that you need to hide.”
AJ was very diplomatic, and Paige was impressed by his patience because she was running out of hers.
“And like right now. We can already hear them approaching,” Paige interjected.
“But why a wardrobe?” Mr. Ota asked stubbornly.
Paige was certain he thought she was crazy. Sometimes she wondered that about herself, but not today and not now. “That’s just ridiculous!” he added.
Paige looked at AJ and Dave, pleading with her eyes for some help. Because she alone couldn’t make them see the danger. She was aware of that. AJ had much better people skills than her.
“I guess because the Shadows see the wardrobe as a rock in the ocean,” AJ explained. “It kind of makes them divert around it. To them, it’s nothing but an object in the way of a vast sea.” AJ sounded like he was reciting poetry.
Paige couldn’t help but wonder how he knew things like that. He didn’t have an overprotective mother as far as she was aware. But this was not the first time he’d acted a bit weird, so maybe some of the things her mother said about him were true.
Not the part about him being the enemy, but the rest.
The parents were still unsure of what to do, and that drove Paige to madness and back. They simply stood there, looking at Paige, AJ, and Dave, then at each other.
“I think it’s better for you to just leave,” Mr. Ota said. “I won’t even call the police.”
Paige couldn’t believe her ears. “There are no police to call! Look, if you don’t hide right now, you will certainly die,” Paige said, her voice grave. She could hear the sounds from outside of the apartment, an approaching tidal wave becoming even louder.
The boy started crying, and that made Mr. Ota angry. “Look, you had your fun. Now just go!”
“Oh, for crying out loud,” Paige snapped. “Just look out the window!” She gestured toward it.
“We’re telling the truth,” Dave repeated.
“Akari,” Mrs. Ota said. Even though he was still frowning, he approached the window. He shook his head as he moved the thick curtain to peek outside. An audible gasp escaped him.
Mrs. Ota followed her husband’s lead and moved to look through the window as well. “Oh, my God,” she sobbed.
“This isn’t possible,” Mr. Ota said, shaking his head again as if that would change what he saw.
“Let’s go! We’re running out of time,” AJ urged.
“But... but this can’t be.” Mr. Ota was fixed in place.
“What are we to do?” Mrs. Ota cried.
We just told you what to do! Paige wanted to yell at them.
“That’s it. I’m done,” Paige snapped, grabbing the gun from the small of her back. She pressed it against Mrs. Ota’s head. She hated herself for doing that, but it had to be done if they were to be saved. “If you don’t start moving toward your bedroom right this second, so help me, I will start shooting,” she bluffed.
“Paige,” AJ warned.
“Stay out of it. Move!” she ordered the family, giving Mrs. Ota a little nudge. Miraculously, that did the trick.
“Please don’t shoot. We’ll do whatever you say,” Mr. Ota pleaded.
“The bedroom,” Paige snapped firmly.
They walked into their bedroom, and Paige was pleased to see they had a walk-in wardrobe.
“Get in there,” she pointed with her gun.
Mr. Ota opened the door and ushered his family inside.
The three heads inside the wardrobe nodded in unison.
“I know you’re confused and scared, but please trust that I know what I’m doing,” Paige said, trying to reassure them. She grabbed the key from the wardrobe. “I will come in the morning to release you,” she said before closing and locking the door.
“Was that really necessary?” AJ asked in a hushed voice, nodding toward the gun.
“It did the trick,” she replied, putting the key in her front pocket. “Do you have a spare bedroom?” Paige asked through the door.
“Yes,” came the instant reply from Mrs. Ota.
“Thanks, and please stay quiet,” Paige added more calmly now that she knew they were safe.
Without another word, the three of them searched through the halls and found the spare bedroom.
Screams came from everywhere inside the building now which could only mean the Shadows had already made their entrance. It was just a matter of time when they would bust into this unit as well.
They made their way into an outdated guest room. Inside, they found an old wooden wardrobe, just like the one Paige grew up to fear. She had a few very vivid flashbacks about the times when she hid with Willow, but she banished those thoughts. She needed her head clear.
This wardrobe was tall and looked strong enough to withstand a storm. Paige found comfort in that because it would have to be sturdy enough for the three of them. AJ opened the doors and found it filled with clothing and shoes.
“Perfect,” Dave mumbled sarcastically, coming to stand next to AJ. “And here I was, debating if I should bring my shrinking device.”
Paige ignored the comments, scanning their hiding place. They couldn’t even fit their shoes inside, let alone three grown adults, but they still had to try. Since there was hardly any space for them, Paige started to throw all the shoes out in a panic, but AJ stopped her. “Paige, what are you doing?” he asked, putting them back in.
“I’m trying to make some room for us to get inside,” Paige replied, a little irked that she had to explain that to him. “Do you really think they won’t understand what a bunch of shoes on the floor right in front of the wardrobe means?” AJ challenged. “They’ll probably wonder where they came from. And then?”
Well, when he put it that way... Paige looked at him apologetically. He was right, and she was ready to bite his head off for it.
“Guys, stop bickering,” Dave said. He moved to stand by the door, listening for any changes. “Whatever you’re planning to do, do it now,” he added as a warning.
Paige took a couple of boxes out and placed them under the bed along with their backpacks since that felt logical to her. Together, they pushed the shoes to one side of the wardrobe and made space for the three of them on the floor, so they could sit.
It was going to be a tight squeeze in the wardrobe, but it wasn’t like they had any other choice. AJ went in first, and pressed himself against the inside wall, gesturing for her to follow. Taking a deep breath and trembling, Paige climbed inside next and sat down, leaning against him. Dave moved inside last, closing the door. His entire body was against hers. Paige felt like she was in a very tight, uncomfortable sandwich.
There was no room for personal space. There was no room for anything, and she couldn’t breathe. It was so dark, Paige couldn’t see a thing. Her heart was racing like crazy, and her hands shook violently even though she pressed them against her thighs. Suddenly, there was a strange scraping sound, and she squeaked.
“Relax, it’s just me,” Dave reassured her. He was fumbling with the key, trying to lock the door from the inside.
She felt like she would never see the light of day or take a normal breath again. Each second being in there made her become more and more anxious. Panic rose inside of her, making every fiber of her being scream.
AJ placed his hand on top of Paige’s, trying to relax her. To her complete surprise, her hand stopped trembling after a few moments.
“AJ… how did you do that? You made me relax,” Paige whispered in wonder.
“That’s just my magic touch,” he replied softly. Even though she couldn’t see him, she knew he was smiling.
In that wardrobe, in the dark, Paige realized they could be anywhere, miles away from the danger and stress, surrounded by silence.
“I could use some of that magic touch, too, man,” Dave deadpanned.
Though it was important for them to stay quiet, Paige pressed her head against Dave’s shoulder and giggled. That further calmed her down, which was exactly Dave’s point, she realized.
Their bodies were crushed together at the bottom of the wardrobe. She was closer than she ever imagined she would be with one guy, let alone two.
The feeling was so pleasant that, for a moment, she was glad they were locked together. They kept her balanced, sane.
When they all calmed, Paige continued to keep her head against Dave’s shoulder. She inhaled his hypnotizing scent while AJ started to gently brush his hand over her hair. His warm breath tickled her skin. All of it together had the most calming effect of her. The panic was completely gone, and Paige sighed in content.
“There, isn’t that better?” AJ murmured.
“Actually, my man, you are petting me now, but don’t stop,” Dave whispered again. Paige would have laughed again, but suddenly, they could feel the wardrobe moving.
That froze them in place.
The wardrobe rocked as the waves of Shadows stirred outside in the bedroom.
They’re here, Paige thought. She could feel the lingering traces of panic making an appearance again.
They all held on to one another and waited for the aliens to leave or to be discovered. Paige held her breath, too scared to even do that.
AJ protectively placed his arms around Paige, pulling her even closer to him as she clutched Dave. In their warm embrace, Paige felt like she was in a nest of love and warmth. It helped her not lose her shit.
Once again, she thanked whoever was listening for sending these guys to her because being alone in a dark wardrobe was something she couldn’t have survived on her own.
A scream of terror suddenly came from outside the room, and they all tensed.
“Jenny, Jenny!” a woman was crying.
“Mamma, please help me!” came an equally distressed reply.
It was some other family from the building being torn apart. They didn’t hide, Paige realized in horror. Nobody had told them.
She had to do something. She had to try to save them.
Paige tried to get up, but it was so tight with AJ and Dave inside of it that she couldn’t move without their assistance.
They quickly realized what she wanted to do, and they held onto her tightly. AJ embraced her as Dave leaned on her, blocking her movements completely.
“Please don’t struggle,” Dave murmured.
“They will get you, too,” AJ whispered in her ear.
“But the girl…”
“Stay with me,” AJ whispered again, touching her cheek. “You can’t reveal yourself.”
“Listen to him, Paige, please,” Dave urged.
AJ’s soft voice and Dave’s caring tone made her stay. She buried her head against Dave’s back, trying to block out the horrifying screams. They eventually died down as the raging waves filled the apartment.
The wardrobe rattled as the wave swirled around it. AJ tightened his embrace, knowing she needed it, and in return, she held on to Dave even tighter. They were like one being, holding on to one another, keeping each other safe and offering comfort and strength.
Paige was too afraid to breathe. She was afraid it would be audible to the Shadows, and since they were that close, she knew the guys felt the same way. They stayed perfectly still and didn’t move.
Then, after what seemed like an eternity, the wave eased away as fast as it had arrived. There was silence in the apartment once more. The screams from other floors of the building faded, too, as the shadowy wave collected people as it went.
We’re probably the only people alive left in the entire building, she thought.
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