Dead End Chapter 11

Dead End Chapter 11

Chapter 11

Son Taehwan gazed faintly at the various machinery around the engine room, pondering the traits of zombies. Movement. Intelligence. Senses. Thought processes. Habits. As he desperately tried to recall, it felt like something was about to click.

“Yeah, it might be possible.”

It was a risk, but worth attempting. If he did nothing, death was certain anyway.

He gripped the fishing reel tight and, as if resolving himself, shouted loudly, “Hey, you son of a—over here! Come over heeere!”

Suddenly, like a madman, Son Taehwan started to clang around with a monkey wrench.

“Senior! What are you doing?”

“Stay put! Don’t come out!”

Son Taehwan, hood pulled over his head, moved forward while clanging the monkey wrench against nearby chunks of metal. By now, he had memorized the layout of the engine room. Even if the gorilla-like zombie were to charge at him, he could roughly guess from where. It was fortunate that this was his workplace. While screaming, he toyed with the fishing line.

“Damn it, more time would be good. It’d be troublesome if it comes too quickly.”

The engine room, filled with various machines, resembled a jungle of steel. He was intent on making his stand here. Yet, the creature just made thumping noises, unwilling to attack immediately. Given its size and movement, it had ample opportunity. At least he had bought some time with the fishing line, but something felt off.

“They can definitely hear noises. So why aren’t they coming?”

He scattered nuts and bolts around, but the creature remained unmoved, just thumping in the distance and showing no interest in approaching.

“It can’t have figured out I’m setting a trap. They aren’t that smart. So, why? Is it sizing me up or has it caught on?”

The zombies he had encountered thus far didn’t ambush or show signs of intelligence—they charged as soon as they located their target, fiercely attacking until nearly killed.

“Ah!”

It hit him. Son Taehwan realized why it wasn’t approaching—the knife spear stuck in its neck. Unlike the others, it fled immediately when attacked. Zombies couldn’t feel pain. Otherwise, it would have been in agony over the neck injury. This meant zombies instinctively knew about death, even if they couldn’t feel pain.

It was ironic to think that a creature that had already died once feared death again, but this innate fear was worth exploiting. Encountering something that at least had some awareness was easier than something mindless. It could be lured into traps or its next move could be predicted.

Yet, intelligence was key. If it managed to open the door to the power station and then the engine room, the zombie had at least some intelligence, albeit nearly instinctual. It took hours to get out of the power station but managed to open the engine room door immediately. This discrepancy niggled at Son Taehwan’s sense of unease.

Perhaps they were learning. And if that were true, that gorilla zombie might be evolving as it observed their movements this very moment.

“Han Sujin! Don’t come any closer and turn off the light!”

“Have you lost your mind, Senior?! What are you going to do by yourself!”

“If I wasn’t crazy, would I be doing this?! Just turn off the light and stay still! Only turn it on when I tell you!”

But Han Sujin wasn’t a passive woman who followed orders blindly. She knew exactly what to do. Glancing at the sack from which the knife had fallen, she pulled out a case—it was a scalpel she had always carried since being dispatched to Antarctica.

Normally, for hygiene, they used disposable blades with reusable scalpel holders, but in Antarctica, due to supply issues, she had a reusable knife-type scalpel, which was a fortunate thing now. She used plasters to attach the scalpel firmly to the sack, muttering to herself as if making a promise.

“I’m going to save him. I have to.”

Gazing into the darkness, she kept repeating this to herself. She didn’t want to lose the companion she had barely made. The warmth of Son Taehwan’s hand that caught her earlier stayed on her hand.

She didn’t want to lose his breath, either. In the current circumstances, the heat from his breath felt warmer than any heating device—a warmth she couldn’t afford to lose.

Suddenly, Son Taehwan was scared. If the zombie’s intelligence was evolving, it might head upstairs to draw him out or go toward Han Sujin. That would completely upend his strategy. He had to stop it from getting distracted and draw it in.

“Hey, bastard! Why won’t you come? Are you scared because the lights are off? Huh! Come on, try to catch me! I’m right here!”

That’s when the creature moved for the first time. The sound of something whizzing through the air came from above. Quickly turning his head, Son Taehwan was chilled by the sight of the object—it was a paint can.

The creature was biding its time, trying to draw Son Taehwan out. Barely suppressing his fear, he didn’t know how smart it would become if he didn’t catch it soon.

He was at a narrow passage next to a sea water desalination unit. It wasn’t ideal for the large zombie to move around, but if it didn’t come, the place was pointless.

“Damn. Can’t wait any longer. I need to make it come, somehow.”

Son Taehwan used a cutting tool to slit his wrist. Blood spurted out, the metallic scent thick in the air.

“Can you smell it? I don’t know about your tastes, but surely you don’t just eat flesh without drinking blood! Come here! Thirsty? Drink some blood!”

It was a half-baked gamble. He had confirmed they could hear, but whether they could smell, and if so, whether they’d be attracted to the scent of blood, was unverified. It was a desperate grasp at straws. And after bleeding, he realized he was far from the creature—too far for the scent of blood to reach. But then he heard the whooshing sound of movement and exclaimed with relief.

“Its sense of smell is much sharper! Gotcha!”

Grasping the monkey wrench with his bloodied hand, all he needed was for the gorilla zombie to fall into the trap.

“Hurry up!”

Suddenly, a metal column by the generator squeaked. Since Han Sujin was on the wall, it couldn’t be her—the cunning zombie had moved in silence to take him down. Son Taehwan deliberately looked away, pretending to be frightened.

Then, the thing readied to pounce from its perch on the ceiling and the metal structure—but Son Taehwan let out a loud scream, feigning retreat. The predator, like a proud lion, leaped towards where he was. At that moment, the zombie’s neck got entangled in the fishing lines Son Taehwan had placed.

Even a zombie with monstrous strength wasn’t made of steel. The gorilla zombie spun around with the line on its neck and crashed head-first to the ground.

“Han Sujin! Light here!”

Their teamwork was perfect. As soon as she heard him, Han Sujin shone her penlight on the spot. Son Taehwan rose to his feet as the light illuminated the creature, and with the monkey wrench, hit it squarely on the head.

Like playing a whack-a-mole game, he felt a strange sensation as the skull cracked. The gorilla zombie tried to rise, arms pushing up, but flopped back down. Son Taehwan, wrench in his good hand, struck with frenzy.

Thud, thud, thud. His right hand numbed from hammering at the head, black blood splattered his jacket. The black blood began to bubble and evaporate, but he held his breath, covering his nose. Whether the evaporating black blood carried infection was unknown, and he had no wish to test it.

Only after the black blood had fully evaporated did Son Taehwan breathe a sigh of relief and slump back. However, at that moment, Han Sujin charged towards him in the bright flashlight beam, wielding her scalpel-tipped spear.

‘Betrayal?’

It was his first thought. Son Taehwan, incredulous yet reflexively raising his wrench to shield his face, thought he was struck.

“Move aside!”

Han Sujin screamed, stabbing the scalpel spear past Son Taehwan’s side. He slowly twisted around to see another zombie, this one in a short-sleeved tee, having nearly ambushed him from behind, skewered expertly by Han Sujin.

Her sharp scalpel sliced through its neck like carving ice, and she shoved the black-blooded zombie away as easily as scooping grains. With a thud, the short-sleeved zombie collapsed, and both Han Sujin and Son Taehwan leaned on each other, shaking uncontrollably. Neither had expected another zombie laying in wait, silent and undetectable. Had Han Sujin not been there, Son Taehwan would have been caught between two attackers and hunted down.

Astonished at the zombie’s unexpected intelligence and hunting method, Son Taehwan felt the term “cunning” was an understatement. If all the zombies outside were as smart, the two of them had little chance of survival.

“Have you lost your mind, Senior? Why did you go out alone?”

“But we caught it, thanks to that.”

“What if I hadn’t been there?”

“But you were there.”

“How funny. What’s that even mean?”

Their banter seemed set to continue. Son Taehwan couldn’t help but let out a slight chuckle. The situation wasn’t humorous, but Han Sujin’s persistent nagging seemed adorable to him.

“Don’t worry, I’m fine.”

He held her cheek, directing her gaze towards him. She, in turn, shone the penlight on Son Taehwan’s wrist with a scowl.

“What about all this blood?”

“Oh, that. Slashed my arm to lure it.”

“How much did you cut? Let me see.”

“Ouch, ouch! Are you a butcher or what? Did you get your medical license from a crackerjack box?”

“Shut it and show me your wrist already.”

“Always tough, aren’t you? We’re in a place swarming with that evaporating black blood. We’ll take a closer look when we get upstairs.”

“Ah…”

“What’s that ‘ah’ for? Your nickname is now ‘Butcher’.”

“Geez.”

“And we don’t have the luxury of time. There could be more of them.”

Could there be three or four zombies instead of just one? That meant they couldn’t guarantee there weren’t more of them.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *