Dead End Chapter 12

Dead End Chapter 12

Chapter 012

Before looking for other zombies, Son Taehwan glanced down at the gorilla zombie and the short-sleeved zombie. These two zombies had different characteristics compared to the others. The gorilla zombie had been getting stronger and more intelligent, while the short-sleeved zombie moved silently without making the slightest noise. The degree to which they deviated from the normal traits of zombies was too significant to be merely individual differences.

“These guys were different. Even if zombies are evolving, there seemed to be fundamental differences from the start. But why?”

There was no immediate way to figure out why. Taehwan knew almost nothing about zombies, which were not common knowledge in the world.

Taehwan took one last look at the short-sleeved zombie, whose neck had been severed, and turned his head away. That zombie had been his roommate, a pleasant young man who used to share various stories about weather phenomena and miscellany.

“Are you okay, senior?”

“…Yeah, I’m fine. Both physically and mentally. Don’t worry.”

Taehwan sighed deeply and placed his hand on her shoulder. Though he wasn’t physically tired, hefty sighs kept escaping him.

“Still, I’m glad you’re here. Without you, I’d probably be dead by now.”

“Th-that goes for me too, senior.”

Despite feeling a mutual thankfulness, both of them found the situation a bit awkward and started picking up items again. Taehwan carefully extracted a kitchen knife stuck in the gorilla zombie’s neck, while Han Sujin used a penlight to inspect the body of the short-sleeved zombie, looking for anything useful.

“People sure adapt quickly. It’s like the innkeeper in Les Misérables, searching corpses for loot.”

“Thénardier, huh? Yeah. A week ago, I would’ve been shocked to see a dead body like this.”

“What about all that talk of being an Air Force Lieutenant, was that all bluster?”

“Shut it. You should take any story from a man in the military with a grain of salt.”

“Wow, I thought as much. A real blowhard.”

“Miss, we still have this floor to check, you know?”

They both heaved yet another sigh and once again moved with coordinated action. They knew they had to continue the search, despite their unease, securing a safe place at least until the blizzard passed.

They took enough time to meticulously tie up the first floor’s windows and doors with fishing line and cords and finished searching up to the second floor.

“Whew. It’s pretty tough.”

“Tell me about it. Anyway, I’m going to take off my cold-weather clothes, so move over.”

“What, are you going to do a strip show?”

“You fool, my clothes got covered in black blood earlier.”

Black blood boiled and evaporated when exposed to air, yet some residue remained. They couldn’t know if that was dangerous, but being careful was better. Taehwan began to take off his overcoat as he reached the women’s shower room they had been using as their accommodation. Peeling off the outer layer in the cold felt like it froze his bones. Sujin also carefully checked if black blood had gotten onto her clothes before she entered the women’s shower room.

There was still warmth inside the women’s shower room as the fire continued to crackle. After the unprofitable commotion outside, the two silently watched the chair legs burning in the fireplace. There were no more incoming zombies, but fuel was running low.

“Senior, what now? Should we bring in more wood?”

“We could burn the wooden desks, lasting us about half a day. But do you hear that outside? This blizzard is more unruly than the one a few days ago. It’ll be tough without electricity.”

Wood burned faster than expected, and the wooden desks from the office were no match for the intensity of the Blizzard. This cold snap was expected to be harsher than usual, so just burning everything to hold out was not a solution. While Taehwan’s mind searched for answers, he feared that hope would be extinguished as soon as the fire died down. A more permanent solution was necessary.

“Ah, senior, your arm. Show it to me.”

“Ah, right, the cut.”

In this place where mysterious infections reanimated corpses, even minor contagion was a risk. Taehwan rolled up his windbreaker and sweatpants and presented his wrist to Sujin. She inspected the wound with a penlight, sighing with relief. There were no signs of infection with the black blood for now.

“It’s not too deep. A bandaid should cover it.”

“When you say it, it doesn’t sound reassuring at all.”

“Ugh. I’m still a doctor, you know.”

Taehwan knew very well that she was a specialist from a university hospital, about to open her own practice after completing her residency. Instead, she had spent a year abroad with Doctors Without Borders. Taehwan never pressed her for her reasons.

“Whatever. Do you have disinfectant at least?”

“Heh. I am a doctor, remember?”

She pulled an emergency kit from inside the shower tub and disinfected Taehwan’s arm.

“Ouch! That really hurts.”

“Just bear it. For an Air Force Lieutenant, it’s just alcohol.”

“Alcohol…”

The alcohol was stored in lab bottles. Taehwan stared at it, licking his lips.

“What’s wrong?”

“Suddenly I feel like drinking. Can I drink that? Is it ethanol?”

“Pfft. Are you serious?”

“I’m cold, and if getting drunk means even drinking lye, I’d be willing.”

“Have you gone mad, senior?”

“No, I’m serious. And you’re the bigger drinker, right? You lush.”

Sujin humored his joke with a pretend pout, and they both let out a ludicrous chuckle. They truly wished they could get drunk. If only they could forget about heating and just fall into a drunken slumber.

“How much time has passed?”

Taehwan took out his polar-specialized watch to check the time. The watch displayed the time for both his home country and King George Island. There was exactly a 12-hour time difference. He began to feel a wave of fatigue as he looked at the watch. Four and a half hours had already elapsed since they had arrived from the German base.

But more concerning was the fact that nighttime was drawing near. Although there were the white nights during the Antarctic’s winter season, which didn’t become overly dark, people needed rest, cold and darkness notwithstanding.

However, it wasn’t the time to rest easy. King George Island’s Sejong Station was overrun, swarming with zombies. The nature and risks of the black blood’s infectiousness or danger as it evaporated were unknown. The blood evaporates. It was a phenomenon that made no sense no matter how they looked at it.

“Kid, have you ever heard of blood that evaporates like this?”

“Well, if it were dry ice maybe, but blood vaporizing like that… Especially when some zombies seem to melt and evaporate. I don’t think that’s ever been reported before.”

She squatted down and examined the black blood stains on Taehwan’s outerwear. For her, as a doctor, such a phenomenon was incomprehensible. Then, she quietly moved closer to Taehwan. They were now so close that they could hear each other’s breathing.

Fear played a part, as did the reassurance of having another living person close by. They were seeking reliance not because of romantic attraction but simply as human beings needing another human being. As Sujin’s face drew near, Taehwan coughed awkwardly and resumed the conversation.

“Should we try burning diesel? It might not be for the generator battery, but we do have some oil.”

“If we light a fire in such a closed space, we’ll suffocate, especially since there’s already so much smoke from just burning wood.”

True enough, smoke was already beginning to fill the air above them. The smoke from burning wood was bearable, but any more and the acrid smoke would threaten to suffocate them.

“Ah… the smoke.”

Taehwan felt like he’d had a moment of insight, only to be thwarted by the issue of smoke. He considered using the chimney below or the generator, but nothing promising came to mind. Moreover, the generator was their last resort. Taehwan wanted to leave the diesel oil or the generator itself untouched.

Just then, an idea clicked in his mind.

“Ah, if I think about it again, there was a fuel source right nearby.”

“A fuel source? You said it would only last half a day.”

As an engineer, Taehwan had extensive knowledge of the facilities at Sejong Station. In his panic, he had forgotten that there was a warehouse across from this mechanical wing, filled with wooden materials and tools used for repairs.

“Wood lathe. That’s a cramped place rarely visited, so it might not have zombies. Have you never been there, Kid?”

“Stop calling me ‘Kid.’ What’s a wood lathe?”

“A place to stack lumber for repairs or construction. It’s a term commonly used in the military. Right up front, there’s a warehouse where the wood used for Sejong Station’s construction projects is stored.”

“I see.”

“What do you mean, ‘I see’? If I hadn’t remembered it, you should have. Anyway, if we can bring wood from there, we might be able to easily last a couple more days.”

“A couple of days…”

They looked at each other intently. Soon, the fire would die out. If they just stayed here doing nothing, the blizzard would plummet the temperature even further.

Then, as he contemplated the path to the wood lathe, Taehwan suddenly smacked his forehead.

“You’re conjuring another lame joke, senior. Don’t overdo it.”

“It’s not that. I’ve been a complete idiot.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I forgot that the snowmobile had a battery, even though we just rode in one.”

“Ah! The snowmobile! That’s right. I am a fool.”

“You’re definitely a fool.”

Sujin smacked Taehwan’s back in mock annoyance.

True, the battery used for the snowmobile was a bit different in voltage, but Taehwan possessed nearly expert-level knowledge in power generation. In this mechanical wing, there were also facilities to step up the voltage. Even with a different battery voltage, they could make it work.

“But senior… the snowmobile is outside, right? How do we bring it in?”

“That’s the problem.”

No further explanation was needed. At least two zombies had already entered this place, and an unknown number of others were outside roaming about.

“I don’t know how many there are, but there won’t be just a few. There was quite a number pounding on the door earlier.”

“But it’s better than freezing to death.”

“I agree.”

The conclusion was straightforward and needed no further validation. The two of them stood up energetically from the women’s shower room where the fire was dwindling.

The primary objective was to acquire the battery.

The secondary objective was to secure fuel.

These were the survival goals for Taehwan and Sujin to live on.



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