Dead End Chapter 1

Dead End Chapter 1

Chapter 001

“This is CNN. In New York, Las Vegas, and Atlanta, numerous patients have been reported dead, bleeding black blood from their entire bodies. The cause has yet to be determined, and it is suspected to be a new viral disease. As it may be contagious, nearby residents are advised to…”

“In Dubai, a patient has died vomiting black blood. Local doctors have been unable to identify the cause…”

“Following the UK, simultaneous deaths have occurred in Beijing, Vladivostok, and Irkutsk, with patients bleeding black blood. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the UN have named this disease ‘Dead Blood’ and are investigating whether it’s a form of bioterrorism…”

“In Sapporo, Hiroshima, and Istanbul, numerous Dead Blood patients have emerged, confirming that it can be transmitted through wounds…”

“Dead Blood infection is on the rise!”

“Current mortality rate at 100%, no known cure…”

“Global infection rate estimated at 29%. Continuing to increase.”

“New York infection rate at 79%. City functions paralyzed.”

“Russia declares martial law!”

“Countdown to U.S. presidential nuclear strike approval.”

“Civil war erupts in Istanbul at a 90% infection rate!”

“Japan’s infection rate at 98%. National functions essentially halted!”

“Nuclear weapons deployed in New York, Las Vegas, Atlanta!”

“U.S. fails to contain the infection. Dead Blood spreading throughout all regions including Seattle.”

“Breaking news: The origin of Dead Blood has been identified as Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The Department of Homeland Security dispatches special forces to investigate the source of infection…”

“Dear citizens, the operation has failed. Survivors should seek refuge in underground shelters or move to the mountains…”

“Worldwide infection rate at 97%. Is this the end of humanity?”

“This is our last broadcast. To those of you still watching, survive. There is no salvation. You are the last hope.”

* * *

“Geez, it’s obscenely cold. Oh, I guess that’s normal for Antarctica, huh? Haha. Hanging out with the Germans has got me cracking strange jokes now. Did everyone fare well? I was a bit delayed by the blizzard.”

Son Taehwan had gone fishing near the penguin village at Narebski and ended up caught in a snowstorm. He took refuge for a few days at a nearby German observation station. Returning to the Sejong Base took a few more days than anticipated, and now he was talking to himself, expecting someone to give him a hard time for it.

However, even after he closed the external door of the dormitory building and entered through the inner door, there was no response.

“Really, you guys are too much. Isn’t anyone going to answer? Anyway, those German folks told me to bring back some sausages and cans of SPAM. They think it’s strange how much Koreans like SPAM?”

Still, there was no answer, and an embarrassed Son Taehwan reflexively kept up his chattering.

“What’s this, you’re all upset because I went away for a bit? Didn’t I tell you over the radio? Did you really think I would be gone that long? I thought I’d just go fishing and come right back… But I ended up encountering such a vicious blizzard. And then the snowmobile broke down causing me trouble. If it weren’t for the German guys, I’d be dead, you know?”

However, there was still no response. Son Taehwan tilted his head in confusion and shook off the snow. Normally, even just opening the outer door would trigger a beeping noise, but he heard nothing of the sort.

He stopped brushing off the snow and looked inside.

“Hang on… Why are all the lights off? What are you all doing? Don’t tell me you’re throwing me a surprise party? It’s not even my birthday and I’d find no joy in that. Hey, anyone there?”

The glass on the inner door was frosted over, and nothing was visible inside. It was strange. Sejong Base was a science station and under no circumstances should all the power have been shut off. Even if it weren’t a scientific post, if the power went out entirely in Antarctica, everyone would freeze to death.

“Damn it! Another generator issue? No, even so, there should be backup power, right? Unless, once again, some high-power equipment failed? Scientists never realize how much engineers like me suffer. Please, take it easy for once.”

Son Taehwan, the engineer who came to Antarctica, thought another generator must have broken down. Considering he was probably the only one able to handle the generation equipment, the situation would have been even more troublesome.

He carefully shook off every piece of ice stuck to his coat before stepping inside.

“If the generator broke down, then…”

The first thing Son Taehwan felt when he stepped inside was ‘cold.’ He vividly remembered what things were like before he had left a week ago for the fishing expedition.

It had been the beginning of the month, and they had resupplied enough fuel by ship from Chile, so even if the generator had issues, the oil heaters and heating systems that didn’t rely on electricity should still be operational.

He took off his gloves and picked up a soft drink bottle that was frozen solid. On the floor, the water that had leaked from the bottle had frozen into an icy sheet, and several portable surveying devices from the science building were solidly frosted over.

The scientists assigned to Sejong Base would’ve let their own bodies freeze before they let their computers or equipment freeze over. That was always the cause of conflict between them and Son Taehwan, the engineer. The electrical line going to the science building was problematic due to aging infrastructure, and the scientists would always run to him in a frenzy every time something happened. Sejong Base was an operational scientific station, not a place for tourism. Son Taehwan felt a chill run down his spine as he looked at the frozen interior.

“Damn… This isn’t fun at all, so can we drop this lame prank already? Boss! Hyunsoo hyung!”

Son Taehwan reflexively grabbed his penlight. The situation felt like something out of a ghost story, like ‘The Philadelphia Experiment.’ A ship with no people but traces of a meal just prepared, the people seemingly vanished into thin air. The feeling was eerily similar to what he was experiencing.

Snacks air-dropped from Korea were frozen solid on the table, and on the far side, a can that seemed to have been prepared as a drinking snack was frozen solid. It was as if the Ice Queen had swept through, leaving behind everything frozen in place.

“Did you dislike me so much just because I took a break? Hey, guys! I even brought your favorite sausages, see! Boss? Boss! I’ve had enough scares, so let’s stop now, shall we?”

The most terrifying aspect was the absence of anyone there. This dormitory building was the first stop for Son Taehwan, and there should have been at least someone on duty. No matter how elaborate a surprise party was planned, given the nature of Sejong Base, it would not have been easy for everyone to vacate their posts like this.

Especially since no one could know when he’d return. Were they waiting for a ‘long time’ after the blizzard ended, having shut down all power?

“Hyunsoo hyung! Don’t play around! You didn’t even cook rice as a joke, right? That’s nonsense!”

Kim Hyunsoo was the chef of Sejong Base. It was already lunchtime, and at the very least, chef Kim Hyunsoo should have been present. Son Taehwan had a sinking feeling that something had gone terribly wrong.

A freezer interior.

People vanished.

Son Taehwan swallowed hard.

“Let’s… head to the cafeteria.”

Swallowing his saliva, Son Taehwan opened the chilly cafeteria door. The first thing that caught his eye was something that looked like a red head. Son Taehwan recoiled in shock, leaning back.

“What the… is that kimchi?”

At first, it seemed like a bloodied human head, but upon closer inspection, it was just kimchi yet to be sliced. Son Taehwan scanned the kitchen counter with his flashlight and sighed. The outside situation was no different; everything was solidly frozen.

The ambiance in the kitchen felt as if it was just before a special meal preparation. When there was a cause for celebration or someone’s birthday, it was common for off-duty staff to have a drink or something special to eat. The BBQ grill at the back likely meant they had intended to slice the kimchi as a side dish for a meat dish.

Therefore, it made sense that the power outage and disappearance of the people happened at night. There was no grilling meat during busy daytime activities. A dropped 1.5-liter soju bottle outside suggested that the incident occurred in the evening after the workday had ended.

“Let’s turn on the lights first. It’s scarier with the lights off.”

As an engineer, Son Taehwan knew what needed to be fixed. Although a bit scared, it was better than trembling in the cold and fear. He cautiously moved toward the power panel in the dormitory building.

“What on earth has happened? Did everyone evacuate to another station because of that blizzard?”

Son Taehwan shook his head, dismissing the thought of the tremendous blizzard that had delayed him. He wasn’t sure if such an incident had occurred before the establishment of Sejong Base, but now, the base was a massive complex consisting of over 17 buildings, including living quarters and Science Building 1 and 2.

Moreover, the dormitory building was equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, so if it had been severed by that blizzard, the German observation post where he had briefly sought refuge would have suffered damage first.

“So it’s not because of the blizzard then…”

Son Taehwan tiptoed to the door of the administration office. At that moment, he heard a rustling noise from inside. He swallowed his saliva and forced a smile, pretending to understand.

“You guys… You really know how to haze a rookie, right? Though I’m not a rookie anymore… Don’t scare me, okay?”

The door flung open abruptly, and Son Taehwan toppled backward, without a chance to scream. Inside, a dead body was dressed in polar gear, and something else was gnawing at the fingers.

Startled, Son Taehwan dropped his penlight, and only the feet of whoever was eating the corpse were illuminated.

“This… if this is a joke, it’s too much…”

Before Son Taehwan could finish, a silhouetted figure lunged at him, sending him tumbling backwards. It was lucky he hadn’t removed his thick polar clothing since returning on his snowmobile, as he felt a sharp bite on his wrist.

“What the! Why are you biting me! Damn it, what the hell are you doing!”

Despite the thick polar gear, he could clearly feel the immense pressure of being bitten. Fuelled by the shock and anger of being thrown to the floor, Son Taehwan unwittingly shoved the person on top of him hard. The sound of something being thrown into the darkness followed, and the person shoved away crashed into something.

“There must be a limit to a surprise, right…!”

Son Taehwan’s eyes widened as the penlight, flicked away during the scuffle, illuminated the corpse inside the office.

“Boss?”

It was unmistakably the body of the boss. The eyeballs were gone, and the face was frozen solid. With the bluish hue of the face, one could tell at a glance that it was a frozen dead body. The intestines, reminiscent of the film Alien, were protruding from an unfrozen stomach, entirely soaked in red.

A joke? A surprise? This was no prank—it was a real dead body.

“I’m going mad… What is this craziness?”

There was no one to ask for an explanation. The figure Son Taehwan had thrown was already creeping back up to his bed, emitting a terrifying growl. Even in his polar clothing, he felt chills run through his body.

“Ahhhh!”

He quickly grabbed his penlight, stood up, and kicked the thing hard. Another grunt and a thud followed, and Son Taehwan shone his penlight on the unknown entity.

“Ha, Hanyoung?”

Lee Hanyoung. A weather service employee in her late twenties, she had gotten relatively close. She had a nice face and some masculine traits, which made it easy to hang out and have a drink with her now and then. At one point, Son Taehwan, too, had thought they might become involved – especially since he came to Antarctica after breaking up with his girlfriend back home.

However, the woman before him was unrecognizable now. Half of her face was completely smashed, her skin was cold and blue like some alien creature, and what shocked Son Taehwan most was the wooden plank stuck in Lee Hanyoung’s chest.

A person wouldn’t be alive with such a large piece of wood impaled in their chest. She, too, was a corpse.

A walking corpse.

There was only one word that came to Son Taehwan’s mind in that moment.

“Zom…bie?”

It was a notion almost inconceivable for Son Taehwan, isolated in the deserts of Antarctica. Zombies in Antarctica? As Son Taehwan stood bewildered, the zombified Lee Hanyoung began growling lowly as she slinked closer, as if a predator was sizing up its prey before the attack.



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