Dead End Chapter 114

Dead End

Episode 114

“Paula!”

The Maestro had thrown the church building into the air, and all Sun Tae-Hwan could witness was the thick cloud of dust.

“Cough cough! I’m going to die! What’s with this?!”

Sun Tae-Hwan wriggled his way through the residential area of Punta Arenas, dodging around the houses. His heart still felt heavy as if it were being pressed down on, but he seemed okay with a light jog.

The horse, relentlessly pursuing Sun Tae-Hwan, tried to bash its head through in an attempt to burst his skull. As Sun Tae-Hwan entered a home, the horse too barged in, pushing against the interior furniture and tables, trying to knock him over. It was akin to a junkyard crusher smashing a car.

Sun Tae-Hwan had ascended to the second floor just like Paula, evading the horse’s attack and waiting for it to come up the stairs.

Even for a horse, coming up the stairs would expose it to the front. Sun Tae-Hwan was ready with shotgun shells loaded along with a .22 caliber round, planning to gift it to the head of the beast. But just at that moment, the Maestro had flung the church building into the sky.

In an instant, Sun Tae-Hwan, peering out the window, spotted Paula and her group still alive atop the second-floor house and bellowed out to her.

“Paula! Cough cough!”

Choking on dust, Sun Tae-Hwan spat out saliva. His mouth was full of dirt, and for a moment, he couldn’t see anything.

Clop, clop.

Hearing the sound of horse hooves, Sun Tae-Hwan hurled himself out the second-floor window. The spot he had been was smashed to splinters by the hooves, and the horse burst out not through the window but through the wall where the stairway had been.

“Damn it! Tight space! Tight space! That crazy damn horse!”

Annoyed by Sun Tae-Hwan’s escape, the horse bit off a passing Beta zombie’s head with a crunch.

“Hey! Weren’t you an herbivore?!”

It chewed the Beta zombie’s head, then flung the body at Sun Tae-Hwan. He dodged the flying corpse and quickly rolled backward. Behind him was a nine-seater van, and Sun Tae-Hwan reflexively leaped, opening the van’s door and rolled again.

The van had sliding doors on both sides open. Sun Tae-Hwan took a look back as he exited through the opposite sliding door. As expected, the enraged zombie horse rammed its head into the van. The sliding door couldn’t accommodate its bulk, and the creature’s head was trapped in the middle seat, neighing frantically.

“Okay, you bastard. It’s time for you to die.”

However, the horse seemed to disagree with Sun Tae-Hwan’s sentiment. As if answering him with a neigh, it lifted the nine-seater van using just the strength of its neck.

Sun Tae-Hwan pulled the trigger, but it was too late. The shotgun pellets ricocheted under the van, sparking, and the horse, with a crushing motion, flung the van his way.

“Damn!”

Spinning in the air like a cardboard box, the van crashed down where Sun Tae-Hwan lay. Unable to withstand the impact, the van’s chassis crumpled, and its door flew out like a throwing star, narrowly missing Sun Tae-Hwan’s forehead and embedding itself into the cement wall behind, stirring up another cloud of dust. The horse stomped its hooves where Sun Tae-Hwan had been, but he was no longer there.

The horse, irritated, broke the pavement blocks like biting into a candy bar, looking anxiously for its enemy. Sun Tae-Hwan covered his mouth in the dust and hurriedly entered a nearby house to avoid the horse.

Amidst the dust and angry neighing, the horse continued its rampage. A scooter, kicked by the horse’s hooves, crashed into the house Sun Tae-Hwan had crept into, obliterating a wooden column. Immediately, the column snapped, and the items from the second floor buried Sun Tae-Hwan as they crashed down.

“Damn it all!”

The horse continued its search through the cloud of dust.

‘Could it be? Horses don’t have good hearing, right? Oh, that’s right. I remember from the documentary: Horses have incredible vision, so they don’t rely much on hearing! Which means, if I block its vision, it can’t find me!’

True to being a National Geographic fan, Sun Tae-Hwan realized that, in the dusty environment, horses have trouble locating their enemy. Indeed, the horse was prancing around, but it didn’t know Sun Tae-Hwan’s location. Of course, Sun Tae-Hwan couldn’t precisely spot the horse in the dust either, but he was better off than the horse.

‘I can use this to my advantage.’

The zombie horse was clearly distressed by its sudden loss of sight. Sun Tae-Hwan could track its whereabouts by the sound of its hooves alone. Though a direct hit on the horse’s head would provoke further violence, Sun Tae-Hwan had the upper hand for the first time.

He had grabbed a falling music box from the second floor caused by the collapsing house. A simple device, the music box would play once wound up. Sun Tae-Hwan wound it up, pocketed it, and laughed giddily as he headed toward the kitchen.

“Lucky break. Didn’t think I’d find this here.”

Since he was close to Maestro’s territory, no one had touched the supplies. Canned tomatoes, beans, and plenty of wine were stacked on the shelves. Sun Tae-Hwan swiftly bagged a few cans and a bottle of wine into an eco bag hanging beside the fridge and collected some items from the shelf.

While rummaging through the food shelf, he came across an odd item on top.

“Insecticide spray? This could be useful.”

He examined the components of the insecticide and quickly remembered that he had a lighter. This insecticide contained an oil-based compressed agent and, when combined with a lighter, could make a makeshift flamethrower—a dangerous game he commonly played as a child.

Of course, in a place mostly made of wood, starting a fire could have him worried about burning to death along with the supplies, but Sun Tae-Hwan carefully pocketed the spray.

While Sun Tae-Hwan gathered items, the dust slowly settled, and the horse began to tread across the open road, searching for him.

‘Just wait, you damn horse.’

Sun Tae-Hwan gulped down water from a 500-milliliter bottle and was just opening the back door when…

“Damn it!”

Was it voiced into existence? This time, it wasn’t a horse but a dog that leaped at Sun Tae-Hwan. Reflexively, he shoved the gun horizontally into the dog’s mouth, avoiding its teeth. Unfortunately, the dog was a large Rottweiler, a breed so powerful it could even kill calves.

The zombified dog tried to crush Sun Tae-Hwan by putting its weight toward his head. Although he used the gun to block the dog’s mouth, Sun Tae-Hwan couldn’t shoot. He had seen someplace how to use a judo technique called ‘back body drop’, attempting to flip the dog by kicking it, but the zombie dog’s strength was greater than he anticipated. Moreover, as the sides of the dog’s mouth tore from the gun’s pressure, its teeth inched closer to Sun Tae-Hwan. It seemed determined to tear him apart, as if its mouth was slit alien-like just to bite Sun Tae-Hwan.

With his right hand injured and operating only on the strength of his left, Sun Tae-Hwan struggled beneath the monstrous dog. As his strength waned, he involuntarily twisted his body and swung his right hand at the dog’s head with a ‘whack’, hoping to dodge its teeth and roll out from under its weight.

“Huh?”

On the tip of his right wrist, clumps of black dirt sparkled like crystals, and, to his astonishment, his right hand had effortlessly smashed through the dog’s skull, becoming embedded inside.

“What the—what’s this?”

He barely felt any sensation in his right hand. It was as if he had swung a hoe into soft soil…

When he had pierced through it, it was exactly that feeling. Son Tae-hwan’s right hand was neatly penetrating the skull of the dog.

The dog’s entire body twitched and convulsed, never to rise again. In a daze, Son Tae-hwan withdrew his right hand from its head and looked down at the fallen canine.

It was an incomprehensible event. His hand was neither a steel spike nor a pickaxe – how could it have shattered the skull of a large dog? Even Son Tae-hwan himself was stunned by the bizarre feat.

“Ah, damn it. This really isn’t the time.”

Just then, as Son Tae-hwan cursed, a hellish horse chased after him relentlessly. Grocery shelves collapsed en masse, and wooden houses fell apart, but the crazed horse charged straight ahead regardless.

Like a Lego house being torn down, wooden planks and furniture shattered to pieces as the horse barreled through at full speed. The house crumbled completely from the horse’s hoofbeats, and Son Tae-hwan, using his gun as a cane, scrambled to his feet and bolted forward.

“Ugh! Why now of all times?”

Feeling dizzy as if he had just stood up too quickly, Son Tae-hwan lost his balance and fell to the ground. Dragging himself through the dirt, he crawled desperately toward the backyard, but the horse seemed it might trample him any second.

“Not the dog, damn this horse! Eat this!”

From his eco-bag, Son Tae-hwan hurled a ‘flour bag’ toward the charging beast, then fired a .22 caliber bullet towards its torso. It was nearly impossible to bring the creature down with that shot. His aim was to throw off its sense of direction.

With a loud bang, the horse lost its bearings amidst the cloud of flour dust and crashed into the backyard shed. The tin shed crumbled instantly, and the horse struggled to find its orientation in the dust cloud.

Son Tae-hwan tried to reload his sawed-off shotgun, but his hand trembled uncontrollably, and he couldn’t grip the ammunition. A shot fell to the ground as he managed to get two more rounds in his mouth and continued to crawl wildly forward.

His heart was pounding as if it would burst. A glance at his right wrist revealed darkened veins, now twice as thick as before. Was this related to earlier, when he had punctured the dog’s head with his wrist?

The flour smoke didn’t last long. The horse, dusting itself off from the shed wreckage, turned its head toward Son Tae-hwan. He struggled to load the shotgun, shaking as he pushed the shells with his mouth.

The horse, too, seemed aware that this was a life-or-death encounter, approaching slowly step by step through the backyard grass. The merciless force of its hooves needed no explanation. Son Tae-hwan managed to force the shot into the chamber with his lips, but the shell didn’t slide in properly.

The shotgun shell consisted of a tough plastic that encapsulated small lead pellets and a short metal casing that ignited the gunpowder to fire the shot. Son Tae-hwan, in his attempt to load the shell with his mouth, had crushed the metal case with his teeth. The now oval-shaped shell couldn’t fit into the chamber.

“Damn it all!”

The horse prepared to strike, snorting out rotten blood, ready to pounce on Son Tae-hwan. Suddenly, there was the clanging of a pot hitting the asphalt, and someone shouted at the horse.

What Son Tae-hwan saw next was an arrow, swooshing through the air and striking the horse’s hindquarters. Infuriated, the horse turned towards the source of the attack.

“Hey, horse bastard! Over here, this way!”

It was Paula. She and her group, once surrounded by dogs, were now atop a household goods store, calling out to the horse. It was only a two-story building, easy for the horse to leap onto if it tried.

The horse immediately charged toward where Paula was. The distance between where Son Tae-hwan had fallen and the store was less than a hundred meters; Paula was in danger.

In that moment, Son Tae-hwan discarded the ineffectively loaded shell with his teeth and grabbed another from the ground.

“Please, just this once! Just one time!”

His left hand’s tremors didn’t subside. The shell fell to the ground again as he tried to load it into the chamber.

Paula was craftier than he thought. As the horse charged her way, the dogs that followed her attacked it with bared fangs. She had planned to pit the horse and dogs against each other from the start. Son Tae-hwan realized that’s why only one Rottweiler had come after him – the rest were chasing Paula. The dogs were now locked in a head-on collision with the horse due to her ploy.

The horse was an alpha zombie, exhaling black smoke with grandeur, while the dogs, even when injured, bled only rotten blood as beta zombies. Regardless, the dogs seemed oblivious, engaging the horse in combat as if unaffected.

Perhaps the host’s inherent traits persisted even through zombification. The horse was a herbivore, the dogs primarily carnivores.

‘It’s quite fascinating. Human betas cower and nearly submit to alphas.’

If the host’s nature influenced zombies, might it be human nature to avoid or follow alphas like adherents? Son Tae-hwan pondered this intriguing hypothesis, but he had no time to verify it.

Below the store, dogs and wolves fought desperately. The horse kicked and sent dogs flying, while they coordinated attacks against it.

“Hey! Come this way! There’s an emergency ladder here! Climbing up should do it!”

Paula pointed to an emergency ladder behind the building. Son Tae-hwan, picking up the shotgun shells off the ground, rolled across the asphalt. The dogs and horse no longer bothered with his existence.

A Golden Retriever spread its fur as it used the store’s truck as a springboard to vault toward the horse. Meanwhile, a Siberian Husky crouched low to pounce at the horse’s front legs, and a mixed-breed dog resembling a Jindo sneaked out of the horse’s line of sight, leaping to bite at its neck.

Instinct?

As Son Tae-hwan theorized, the host’s aged instincts turned these creatures wolf-like. Their attack methods mirrored those of wolves. Such simultaneous attacks would pose a threat to even the strongest of horses.

Yet, the horse was an alpha zombie. The black soil, a mark of the alpha infection, granted the host supernatural strength – beyond comparison with beta zombies.

Son Tae-hwan rolled across the asphalt towards the store, unwittingly exclaiming in awe.

The horse easily repelled the coordinated assault. A Golden Retriever flying overhead was met with a headbutt, smashing into the store’s wall. The husky aiming for the legs was crushed beneath the horse’s hooves.

The husky’s head cracked apart on the asphalt, flesh and gore scattering. The mixed-breed making a sneak attack from the side was effortlessly shoved aside by the horse as if performing a move from Tai Chi.

No dog could contend with the horse’s weight. Kicked by the horse, the mixed-breed flew into its canine compatriots, crashing into the ground, bones shattering and limbs detaching under the immense force.

The dogs, witnessing the horse’s demonstration of power, growled low and slowly retreated. They seemed to have painfully learned the difference in strength between alphas and betas. Lastly, their gazes jointly turned toward Son Tae-hwan on the asphalt. An unfortunate dog’s severed leg had landed right next to him.



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