Dead End Chapter 115

Dead End

Dead End Chapter 115

Chapter 115

Son Taehwan could feel not just the dogs, but even the head of the horse was aimed at him. Even before the horse charged, he could hear Paula shouting at him.

“If you’re going to turn into a zombie, hand over your gun and die over here!”

Son Taehwan wanted to retort, ‘You’re so heartless, woman!’ but he couldn’t muster the strength to say anything as he struggled to crawl. Then, an arrow aimed at Son Taehwan’s head flew towards him. Paula only used her arrows when it was absolutely necessary.

‘Damn it, she must think I’ve completely turned into a zombie!’

The incident was a mirror of what had happened earlier in the day by the barricade. To anyone looking, Son Taehwan crawling on the ground was the spitting image of a fully infected zombie.

Paula, after some discussion with her people, vanished from the rooftop.

‘She’s given up on the gun. She’s probably planning to make a run for it while the horse’s attention is on me. Honestly, I’d probably do the same if I were her.’

Before he could even settle his mind, Son Taehwan was soaring through the air with a burst of pain. If Han Sujin were there, he would probably have hummed a pop song with fake bravado, ‘I believe I can fly,’ but now was not the time.

The horse that approached Son Taehwan kicked him with its hind legs. In reflex, he used his right hand as a shield against the horse’s hooves, but the strike landed fully this time.

Pain surged through his body as if he was being clubbed, and Son Taehwan was flung towards the back door of the supermarket. Being caught by the horse was unlucky, but could it really be called fortune?

Reaching Son Taehwan before the dogs, the horse had flung him precisely where Paula had mentioned the emergency ladder was. An inspection ladder leading to the rooftop caught his eye. Son Taehwan reached out with his left hand, trying to grab onto the ladder, then he opened his eco bag with the gun holstered on his right side.

A zombie horse was rapidly charging at him. It seemed determined to finish Son Taehwan off. He opened the eco bag and threw a sack of flour at the horse before climbing the ladder desperately with one hand.

The sound of an explosion echoed as Son Taehwan had barely made it up a meter when the disoriented horse rammed into the spot he had been lying. A thick nail popped out like a bullet, and Son Taehwan cursed.

The horse’s ramming caused the exterior of the mart wall to crack and the ladder was on the verge of falling off. As Son Taehwan climbed each rung desperately, he hoped the ladder would hold until he made it to the top.

But cruelly, the rusty ladder didn’t seem reliable. Another rusty nut sprang loose, making the ladder wobble. A can of tomato sauce from the eco bag fell, and the noise naturally caused the horse to look up at Son Taehwan.

“Damn it!”

Son Taehwan tried to release more flour from the eco bag but realized he had already used it all up. Angered, the horse snorted below.

And then, unexpectedly, the dogs that had been held back by the horse’s presence charged at the horse. Perhaps the zombie dogs had noticed the horse losing its sense of direction.

Son Taehwan quickly climbed the ladder while the dogs and horse engaged in a second scrimmage below.

And when Son Taehwan reached the rooftop, someone grabbed his left hand and pulled him up.

“Thought you were gone.”

“Shh. Keep it down.”

Paula was the one who pulled Son Taehwan up to the rooftop of the supermarket. Alejandro and Miguel were also there, slightly injured but safe. For some reason, they brought a bag of cement and threw it down below.

As the cement powder spread over the scene, both the zombie horses and dogs lost their targets and started moving erratically. After dispersing the cement, Alejandro and Miguel quickly flattened themselves against the rooftop.

“You’re clever. The dogs are confused about their direction with the flour and cement powder.”

The horse momentarily lost sight of Son Taehwan’s position and neighed loudly. Its eyelids were caked with flour and cement, making its eyes barely visible.

‘It might take a while for it to see again. Better if the cement keeps it completely blind.’

Alpha zombies possess transcendent physical abilities, but once injured, their bodies do not regenerate. However, Son Taehwan felt a boundless terror rather than confidence as he watched the horse. A creature as normally mundane as a horse had come to such a state.

What if a predator like a puma or grizzly bear became infected? What if an animal more agile and physically superior to humans were to be infected? That would be a truly grim outcome. Even if they managed to escape Punta Arenas, there was no guarantee that such beasts were nowhere to be found.

Furthermore, Son Taehwan grew increasingly uneasy witnessing the infected horse kicking away the dogs.

‘It can’t be… If what I saw at the Peruvian base, that black soil had spread around the world?’

The last footage from the researchers showed Beta zombies emerging in Atlanta.

Atlanta?

The distance between Atlanta and Punta Arenas was considerable, and a simultaneous outbreak of ‘black soil’ was unlikely. Son Taehwan had considered the news clips from Atlanta to be just a ‘local incident.’

But if this situation wasn’t confined to the Antarctic mainland, King George Island, and nearby Punta Arenas, what then?

The possibility alone made Son Taehwan feel light-headed. So far, he had focused only on escaping from King George Island and the South Shetland Islands, hardly sparing a thought for what would come after. Meanwhile, others like Han Sujin, Shepherd, and the pastor had intentionally avoided discussing it.

There are medicines in Punta Arenas; it’s being guarded by soldiers! There is salvation here!

They had come all this way based on a brief radio transmission they had caught at the Chilean base on King George Island. But the light aircraft was shot down by the Infected, and the ‘soldiers’ had run away, getting massacred in the streets of Punta Arenas.

What then, was that transmission about? Son Taehwan’s mind was a whirlwind, and the only thing that surfaced was the seven-letter word seen in the radio room.

The seven letters scrawled in blood at Chile Base air traffic control room.

Dead End.

The same word that kept trailing him since escaping from King George Island, and through Livingston Island. Son Taehwan suddenly remembered his conversation with Shepherd. It felt like a forgotten puzzle piece snapping into place.

The video from the Peruvian base of Atlanta and the west.

The person who died after leaving behind the words ‘Dead End.’

‘Shepherd, do you know who that person was?’

‘I don’t know much. But they mentioned something about the CDC.’

Son Taehwan knew what was located in Atlanta from a documentary; it was a documentary about infectious diseases, and the very first institution featured was the CDC in Atlanta.

Is it just a coincidence that trouble occurred in Atlanta, and coincidentally at the same time, there was a zombie outbreak in the American west? And a person from the CDC committed suicide after leaving behind the words Dead End. Thinking about it, this was no ordinary event. The people who were associated with that Peruvian researcher and the person who left behind Dead End…

“Hey, are you okay?”

“No, no, it’s nothing. What about the horse?”

Instead of Paula, Alejandro indicated that the horse had given up and was heading towards the racetrack. The Beta zombies, which had become dogs, also relinquished their fight, letting the horse smoothly return to the racetrack. Son Taehwan also observed the horse returning to the racetrack.

“Damn it. Paula, wasn’t there a hospital right next to the racetrack?”

“…………”

Paula couldn’t say a word either. True to Son Taehwan’s words, the hospital was within the demented horse’s territory, and the plane wreckage had also fallen not too far from the racetrack.

Son Taehwan intuitively felt that they would not be able to return safely to the school without killing that horse. The others also seemed to have similar thoughts as they watched the horse clinking in the moonlight.

Alejandro and Miguel spoke to each other in Spanish while looking at the horse’s retreating figure.

“They’re asking what we’re going to do now.”

“Paula, aren’t you the leader here?”

“Well…”

“I kinda figured out where the hospital is and where the light was, roughly. You guys can go back.”

Paula looked back and forth between her companions and Son Taehwan.

“But, won’t you be in danger? You were rolling around on the asphalt, aren’t you not able to walk properly?”

Although the spasms had subsided while Son Taehwan lay on the rooftop, there was no telling when they might resume, and if they were not merely spasms but the complete onset of zombie transformation, there was no point in Son Taehwan insisting.

The gaze of those with him naturally shifted to the gun in Son Taehwan’s grasp. Son Taehwan glanced at Paula’s quiver, noticing that not many carbon arrows were left. Paula’s carbon arrows were not merely arrows. Her leadership over the school’s survivors was established because of her extraordinary skill in handling the archery bow.

Sure, bows made from whittled wood or bamboo arrows and plastic bows were still available, but to call those weapons was embarrassing.

Effectively, Paula’s carbon arrows were her leadership embodied. In dangerous moments, she would pierce the heads of zombies with those carbon arrows, earning the men’s acknowledgment of her combat prowess. The problem was that these arrows were dwindling, and if they ran out, the men might question Paula’s combat efficacy and challenge her authority.

Had the carbon arrows been retrieved after being shot, the situation might have been different, but now Son Taehwan understood why she hesitated to pursue the doctor. The carbon arrows were a valuable weapon for escape. Son Taehwan watched his hand grow worse and then spoke.

“Take it.”

“What? What are you doing?”

“Loading it is simple. Pull the lever, break the shotgun in half, and push the shells into the matching holes.”

“Just a minute.”

Son Taehwan confidently handed Paula the survival gun he had been wielding.

“They won’t understand since it’s in English. Honestly, I’m still in the process of turning and don’t know when I might become a zombie.”

Paula nodded as though she already knew.

“It might be better for you to hold onto the gun.”

“But what about you?”

“I’ll manage somehow. You guys should head back.”

Son Taehwan tapped Alejandro on the back and pointed towards the school. Alejandro said something in Spanish while shaking his head. He disagreed.

“After all, if I turn into a zombie, you were going to kill me and take this, right?”

“But you’re still human.”

Of course, Paula’s reference to being ‘human’ was meant in the biological sense, but Son Taehwan felt a surge of tears at her words.

Human.

Remembering a sermon once delivered by the pastor and conversations with Han Sujin and Shepherd, he held back his tears.

“I appreciate it, but honestly, I don’t even know what will happen to me. So, take the gun.”

“What will you do?”

“I don’t think I have much time left anyway. If the doctor is alive, I’ll tell him to head to the school.”

Paula looked into Son Taehwan’s tear-filled eyes, and her eyes also sparkled. Sometimes genuine simplicity transcends nationality or language. Paula felt a lingering guilt for mistaking and shooting at Son Taehwan twice, thinking he was a zombie. And now, unexpectedly, Son Taehwan was offering her his gun, leaving her uncertain how to respond.

The survivors she had met until now had clung to their power and weapons until the very end. There had been none like Son Taehwan, who willingly relinquished his advantages. Even the soldiers who had set up barricades at the school would have made it easier to reach the yacht if they had left even a single gun behind.

Paula did not accept the gun. She wiped her tears with one hand and immediately pointed behind her.

“Our original route is broken, so we don’t even know how to get back.”

“Right. No one’s good with a gun.”

Alejandro chimed in and sheepishly glanced at Son Taehwan. Paula returned the gun to Son Taehwan’s hand as they looked towards the hospital. From atop the supermarket, they could see the hospital.

“We can’t go back empty-handed. We must somehow bring back medicines or the doctor.”

Miguel nodded vigorously at the mention of the word ‘doctor.’ His sister was in dire straits due to childbirth complications at the school. The reason Miguel had tagged along was because of his sister.

Son Taehwan frowned as he alternated his gaze between the hospital and the wreckage of the plane.

“So what are we going to do? You decide, Paula.”

Paula hesitated. In front of the hospital was the racetrack, and confronting that mad horse again was a possibility. On the other hand, the airplane’s fuselage had fallen on the outskirts of the downtown area.



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